OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Kelsi Dungan of Ocean Springs is a 23-year-old college student at Clemson University who works part time at McDonalds. She inspires so many around her with her determination and smarts. You see, Kelsi has Down Syndrome.
Her mom, Dawne Jakubik, said, "I just thought that she could do anything and I should sit back and let her show me."
Jakubik decided early on to never put boundaries on her daughter Kelsi. After graduating from Ocean Springs High School, Kelsi was determined to go to college. So, Dawne helped her find Clemson University's LIFE program.
"It offered independent living, she's learning how to budget, she's learning cooking," Dawne said.
And she's about to start her second year there.
"College is fun. I do make new friends and go to classes with them," Kelsi Dungan said. "I'm learning things like budget. You get your apartment, you get to be on your own, your own laundry, own cooking."
Dawne said, "She's learning self advocacy and so many things that will help her be successful in life and help her have the life that she wants with Derrick."
Derrick is Kelsi's boyfriend of four years.
"Derrick is a pretty good guy and he makes me happy," Kelsi said. "When I'm with him, he makes me feel safe."
They are now engaged to be married after graduation. He's already proposed twice.
With a big smile, Kelsi said, "I was graduating high school and that day he asked me to marry him and the Buddy Walk. I said, 'yes,' because I love him. My mom got married on the beach, so I want to get married on the beach one day."
Their success story is inspiring so many families who have children like Kelsi and Derrick. Darlena Statton now dreams her daughter Ivanna's life can be as fulfilling as theirs.
"They're typical kids, right?" Darlena Stratton said. "They have dreams and hopes and it's up to us to make them realities."
Kelsi wants all parents to know that their special kids want to be like everyone else.
"It's like you have to let them do what they want to do. They want to be a grown up, they want to be on their own, to go to college on their own."
Kelsi never ceases to amaze those around her.
"Kelsi has the ability to pave the way for other children and other young adults like Kelsi," Darlena Stratton said.
At the end of this interview, Kelsi wanted to add something.
"I want to say something about my mom. She raised me since I was a baby and she's helped me go to college and she's the best mom there could be."
Clemson University is one of 250 colleges now offering bachelor degrees to students with special needs. Visit http://www.thinkcollege.net/ for the full list.