It wasn’t easy for Jay Handlin’s daughter Rachel who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Her condition was fraught with misconceptions and difficulties. Many people believe that those who have been diagnosed with the condition are unable to live a normal, independent life.

Handlin was overjoyed when his daughter graduated from college because taking courses for years and maintaining good grades isn’t simple for anyone, especially for his daughter.

The 24-year-old earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of Arts, which could mean a career as a graphic designer or photographer.

Jay was the proudest father on the day when his daughter received her degree.

He tweeted in a post, “This is my daughter, Rachel Handlin. Tonight, she earned her full Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography & Media from the prestigious California Institue of the Arts, @CalArts. Raches has #Downsyndrome. I am officially the proudest father on the planet. Fight me.”

In an interview with PEOPLE, Jay said, “This is a very rough, ballpark calculation, but out of all the people with Down syndrome in the world, those who’ve earned a regular college degree are literally about one in a million.

“That’s not because they’re the only ones who could do it. They’re the ones whose families refused to let their children’s futures be denied, who fought unfair odds, social biases, low expectations and systems stacked against them, and somehow managed to win.

“The first time we took her to Musée d’Orsay, Laura was carrying Rachel when we entered the Van Gogh gallery and it was like an electric charge went through Rachel’s body. She had an instant, strong, positive physical reaction to the art,” Jay recalled.

Rachel’s parents saw to it that she was exposed to art at a young age and encouraged her to pursue it. It’s been said before, but a child’s parental support is important in determining their enthusiasm.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.