Graduate Excluded at Ceremony Sparks Fight for Inclusion

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About the Guest(s):

Ashlynn Rich: Ashlynn Rich is a recent high school graduate with Down syndrome. She graduated with honors and earned the title of scholar-athlete for her involvement in the school’s swim team. She also owns her own small business, Pop Queen Baked Goods. Ashlynn advocates for including students with disabilities in school and the community.

Linda Ramirez: Linda is the mother of Ashlynn Rich. She has tirelessly advocated for inclusive education and has fought for her daughter to be fully included in general education classrooms.

Episode Summary: In this compelling episode of Think Inclusive, Tim Villegas delves into the bittersweet experience of Ashlynn Rich, a high school graduate with Down syndrome, and her struggle for inclusion in everyday school life and her graduation ceremony. Despite her numerous achievements, Ashlynn faced exclusion during this milestone event, highlighting systemic issues within the education system regarding inclusivity.

Ashlynn and her mother, Linda Ramirez, share their emotional journey and the ongoing fight for a truly inclusive education system. The episode covers the immediate and long-term impacts of Ashlynn’s exclusion during her graduation, a school board meeting addressing the incident, and the broader implications of segregating students with disabilities. Through their story, listeners gain valuable insights into the challenges and importance of creating an inclusive educational environment for all students.


Key Takeaways:

  • Exclusion at Graduation: Ashlynn was separated from her peers during her graduation ceremony, which caused her to feel hurt and disappointed.
  • Lifelong Advocacy: Linda Ramirez has fought for years across multiple school districts to ensure Ashlyn receives an inclusive education.
  • Systemic Issues: The incident underscores the broader problem of systemic exclusion of students with disabilities in education.
  • Public Apology: Following their speeches at a school board meeting, the superintendent publicly apologized for Ashlynn’s exclusion, admitting it should have been a parental decision.
  • Call for Action: Linda continues to advocate for better training for educators on inclusive practices to prevent such incidents in the future.


Pop Queen Baked Goods:

Marietta Daily Journal:

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