Sunday, May 27, 2012

Graduating with honors while rocking his extra chromosome

Graduation time is here for so many high school seniors.  We take graduating from high school mostly as a given.  But for some it is a struggle.  Some parents of children are told their child will never graduate from high school.

Here is a young man who not only graduated, but with academic honors.  Oh yah, he rocks his extra chromosome.

Brady Kanavel has been an ambassador at West Muskingum High

Brady Kanavel, 19, who was born with Down syndrome, will graduate from West Muskingum High School today. Kanavel earned an academic award for each of his four years in high school.
Brady Kanavel, 19, who was born with Down syndrome, will graduate from West Muskingum High School today. Kanavel earned an academic award for each of his four years in high school. / Chris Crook/Times Recorder

ZANESVILLE -- For the Kanavel family, graduation this year carries extra significance.
Brady Kanavel, 19, is one of 115 West Muskingum High Schoolgraduates. But Brady is the only graduate with Down syndrome, a genetic condition that results in delayed physical and mental development.
In fact, Brady is one of the first students with Down syndrome to ever graduate from West Muskingum. He also earned an academic award each of his four high school years, meaning he had a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.
"Brady's been somewhat of an ambassador," said his dad, Kevin Kanavel.
Down syndrome is diagnosed either at or before birth, so Brady's parents started him in early intervention classes when he was just six weeks old. Initially, he went to Starlight, a program designed for people with disabilities, but when it came time for elementary school, Brady's pediatrician thought traditional school would be more beneficial, said Brady's mom, Lori Kanavel.
Lori and Kevin were nervous at first about putting Brady into public school, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience, they said.
"We couldn't have done any better (than West Muskingum)," Lori said. "For Brady, it was definitely the right choice. Absolutely.
"You know, you swallow hard and away you go, but he's been fine. I can probably count on one hand the days he didn't want to go to school."
For Brady, he has plenty of great memories from high school.
He helped with the yearbook. He was on the archery team for three and a half years, and during homecoming, he and the queen were voted "Most Friendly" by their classmates.
Brady knows he'll miss his friends and teachers, but he's excited and ready to graduate, he said.
"He's been talking about that cap and gown since the first day of school this year," Kevin said.
Karen Davis teaches special education English and reading at West M and has worked with Brady for four years. She said it will be difficult to see him go.
One of Davis' favorite memories is the day in 11th grade that Brady picked up "Romeo and Juliet" and read it all the way through. They'd been practicing with novels for two years, she said, but Brady fell in love with Shakespeare.
"He could sit down there and read the whole book. He only struggled over a couple words," she said.
After "Romeo and Juliet," Brady moved on to "Macbeth" and then "Julius Caesar," and on and on.
"I probably have nine or 10 Shakespeare books, thanks to Brady," Davis said. "Brady is the reason we're into classics now."
Brady was also the class technology expert, Davis said. He was always the one who hooked up the webcam, and he was the only one who could figure how to play movies, she said.
Legally, Brady can stay enrolled in high school until he's 22 years old, so he actually plans to defer accepting his diploma. He's met all the requirements and will walk during the ceremony at 7 p.m. today, but he plans to participate in a two-year job-training program through the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center, he said.
Then he wants to go to Zane State College, possibly to become a photographer.
Standing in the high school gym Friday afternoon, with all the chairs lined up for graduation, Lori and Kevin said they never had any doubt Brady would graduate from high school. They just didn't think it would sneak up on them so quickly.
"In a way, I think there's nothing he couldn't do," Lori said. "If he has an interest in something, I would say there's nothing he couldn't learn."
Added Kevin: "The sky's the limit for him."

Be gentle.

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