Student with Down syndrome makes history, graduates from UNLV

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Student with Down syndrome makes history,  graduates from UNLV
Student with Down syndrome makes history, graduates from UNLV. Beth Fisher reports on May 15, 2019.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- A Nevada student is once again making history at his school.

Clayton Rhodes is the first child with Down syndrome to attend his elementary school, his middle school, and his high school.

Now he is ready to graduate with a 4-year certificate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and break down another barrier.

KTNV reports it's a big week for graduate Clayton.

He was asked, "Why is it important for students like you to pursue college?

"We are all different people," said Clayton.

Clayton was the first student to enroll in Project Focus, a college program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Clayton's mom, Shelley Rhodes said, "That was so scary the first day dropping him off."

But mom Shelley says Clayton always knew he would go to college.

And in these four years, Clayton has thrived academically and socially.

Ryan Wennerlind, Associate Director of Project Focus said, "All students, no matter if you have a disability or not, are going to go through the same learning process here in college and they're going to have growth and development just like anyone else."

"Tell me about the food. Thumbs up or thumbs down?" asked KTNV reporter.

"I like the food better," said Clayton.

"The food's okay. How about the dorms?" continued KTNV.

"Eh it's ok," said Clayton.

And then there's the school work.

Project Focus works with UNLV professors to make classes accessible to students like Clayton.

"My name is Clayton Rhodes and I studied at UNLV basketball team," he said.

I sat in on his sports history class when Clayton educated all of us on the UNLV basketball team.

He's been attending games since he was an infant and rarely misses one.

For his broadcasting class, Clayton produced a video on the Aviators' new ballpark.

Clayton hopes to find a job in the sports world when he graduates.

But no matter what his future holds, he's changed the future for so many students like him.

"This is about giving other families the hope that there is something out there for their child after high school," said Shelly.

There are now 25 students enrolled in the university's Project Focus program.