Bismarck woman featured in thesis project highlighting college graduates who have Down syndrome

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 2:49 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Graduating college is a big deal, but for some students, it’s a little extra special. Twenty college graduates from around the world will be featured in a master’s thesis project.

There’s one thing that ties all the subjects and the photographer together — they all have two- or four-year college degrees. And they all have Down syndrome.

Rachel Handlin is a photographer.

“I like taking pictures,” said Handlin.

She’s also a storyteller and a graduate student. She’s traveling the world, capturing photos and stories from people like Elizabeth Romanick.

Romanick is a graduate of Minot State University. She’s one of 20 college grads from around the world who have Down syndrome and will be featured in Handlin’s master’s thesis.

Romanick and Handlin connected through social media and became fast friends.

“I love this girl,” Handlin said about Romanick. “We are so proud of her.”

Handlin photographed Romanick on the Minot State campus and in Bismarck.

“It is amazing to see how many people I impacted and inspired other people,” said Romanick.

Handlin even snapped a few photos of Romanick’s lifelong friend Christian McMerty.

“I got pictures with everyone I know,” said Romanick.

And these pictures tell quite a story. They tell a story of persistence, determination, and inspiration.

Handlin’s mom hopes they might make an impact and motivate more people with Down syndrome to pursue a higher education.

“She wants children with Down syndrome to get an education like her,” said Laura Handlin, Rachel’s mom.

Now, through her photos, she’s showing the world anything is possible.

Handlin will complete her thesis by next spring. You can follow her work on Instagram.