HATTIESBURG, Miss – Living with Down syndrome hasn’t stopped a recently enrolled University of Southern Mississippi student from a lifelong goal of continuing her education.
We followed Reagan Ratcliff to class to get a better understanding of why she’s determined to chase a dream, “It’s important to be educational and I’d like to be a great Southern Miss student.”
Reagan tells us she loves class, homework and learning new things about the world around her. She isn’t enrolled in a special program for those with intellectual disabilities; she was regularly enrolled like every other USM student.
It’ s been her goal to attend USM like her older sister for at least six years now. Her determination to progress allowed her to fulfill that longtime goal,“It’s the greatest thing on earth.”
She’s majoring in broadcast journalism and geography. But she’s only taking one class at a time. The first class she’s tackling is University 101. Reagan’s teacher, Laura Manloe said a lot of skills can be taken away from this introductory class.
“I want Reagan to learn more about her and I also want her to really be exposed to the college experience and finding different ways that she can contribute and grow as a student and as an individual,” said the Interdisciplinary Studies teacher.
The Institute for Disability Studies encouraged Reagan to pursue her goal for higher education because it could lead to potential employment. Dr. Jerry Alliston, Coordinator for Community Inclusion, Employment and Volunteerism, said post secondary education is important for those with intellectual disabilities. He said they need to feel a sense of independence; continuing their education plays a vital role in that development.
“Seeing the joy in her smile and seeing how she’s blossoming and coming out of her shell more because she’s getting more confidence, that’s worth it in itself. But also, she’s becoming a self advocate for others and a lot of people don’t’ realize these opportunities are there. You can be an adult learner.”
Reagan had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to pursue a goal but might be scared to take that leap, “Do the best you can.” She continued saying, “Good luck Southern Miss.”