Man makes history as the first person with Down syndrome to graduate from his college

Born with Down syndrome, Dylan Kuehl has been told the words “no” and “can’t” more times than he can count, but none of those rejections fazed him.

“Nothing scares me!” he said. “They should not be saying that to me in the first place.”

As he has done so many times before, Dylan proved the skeptics wrong once again when he earned his bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College (TESC). In doing so, the 38-year-old became the first graduate with Down syndrome in the college’s 51-year history.


He is also one of the first people with Down syndrome to go to TESC and the first person to attend a 4-year college in Washington State.

Dylan earned a Bachelor in Arts with a specialization in writing. His favorite classes were dance and painting.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it,” he said.

Dylan Kuehl holding up his "The Evergreen State College" ID
Ruby’s Rainbow

He was one the three selected graduates from the nearly 900 who were invited to speak at the ceremony.

“I see the greatness in all of our graduates,” he said in the recorded message.

“I have to say. Wow. I never thought I would make it this far,” he continued. “When I first started, I had people tell me I wasn’t ready for college. It discouraged my determination. Instead of giving up, I built a ‘Yes Team.’”

Dylan Kuehl playing the drums
DK Arts

“Celebrate your abilities. Live your life with ambition and pride,” he said in his speech. “Yes, I am the very first person to graduate here, but I’m not going to be the last.”

Dylan also thanked his tutors, teachers, and fellow students for helping him get his diploma.

In a 2017 interview published on Ruby’s Rainbow, Dylan shared his three favorite things about college: being a student, having summer and winter breaks, and being the son of a TESC alumnus.

Dylan’s mom, Terri Rose, is an alumnus of the college.

Dylan Keuhl with Jermaine Jackson

“I want her to have the memories of my success so she can have the courage to say “That’s my son!” at graduation ceremonies,” he said.

Dylan said that he had grown so much during his second college year. He became a better person and opened up to other people, which allowed him make new friends.

Graduating from college is just one of Dylan’s many achievements. He founded DK ARTS, a visual and performing art company, in 2005. Here he sells his own artwork, and fused glass jewelry.

Dylan is passionate about music and hopes to make a children’s album one day. Until then, he plays the drums with the band “Living the Dream,” whose mission is to promote inclusivity through music.

Dylan Keuhl receiving his diploma

On June 17, 2016, Dylan, who formed the “Jackson Memory Band” after Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, also got to meet the legend’s family—mom Katherine, brother Jermaine, and son Blanket.

Their meeting was made possible through the non-profit organization Gifts from the Heart for Downs. Dylan displayed his Michael Jackson dance moves in the very same ballroom where the Jackson 5 rehearsals in Los Angeles.

Dylan hopes to inspire others through his story.

“When I am faced with a challenge in life I look for ways to overcome it and find a path to reach my dreams,” he said.

Click on the video below to learn more about Dylan’s story.

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