Social media is feeling all excited for an Illinois high school graduate who is taking his next big step in life.
Kurt Kinley, 20, was over the moon recently when he received acceptance into the Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO) at Heartland Community College.
His priceless reaction was captured on camera and shared on Twitter by his brother Glenn Kinley. The video has been seen by more than 210,900 people who saw Kurt get emotional while reading his letter next to his father, sister, and mother.
“Got a call from my little brother recently. I could tell he was fighting back tears when I answered. ‘Glenn, I’m going to college,’” Glenn’s viral Twitter post read. “He just found out he got accepted into a community college program for students with special needs. Here’s the moment he found out.”
Got a call from my little brother recently. I could tell he was fighting back tears when I answered. “Glenn, I’m going to college.” He just found out he got accepted into a Community College program for students with special needs. Here’s the moment he found out. pic.twitter.com/X7Xn3evbWU
— Glenn Kinley (@glenn_kinley) July 3, 2021
Kurt has Down syndrome and graduated from Normal West High School located in Normal, Illinois, in May 2020 but had to postpone his further studies due to the pandemic, his mother Michele Kinley said. Instead of going into remote learning which has fewer opportunities, Kurt opted to train at a local bakery and trampoline park in the last seven months.
He always believed that he would go to college like his older siblings and went through an application and interview process for Heartland’s HALO program, a higher education curriculum for students between the ages of 18 and 28.
“I felt like Kurt was a very true representation of himself during the interview,” Michele said while saying she wasn’t sure what was in the letter when she started recording Kurt’s reaction. “You could see he was obviously emotional, but he was certainly excited,” Michele continued.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, but our hope in this going viral is that people realize that there are so many opportunities out there for adults with special needs. And that we had so much help along the way, you know, [from] family and friends and teachers and paraprofessionals and classmates.”
Kurt will take two classes per semester for two years in the HALO program, which could be anything from reading, money management, cooking, math, and other important life skills.
Meanwhile, Glenn saw firsthand how the video impacted people everywhere. “It’s been just really cool to see the joy that it brought,” Glenn said. “I think for a lot of people too, it reminded them of some things that they take for granted.”
He has also received messages from parents who say they feel inspired that their children “would be able to go to college someday” after seeing Kurt’s video. Glenn said that his parents helped Kurt “exceed all expectations and really challenged these ideas that that kids with special needs can’t do certain things or won’t do certain things.”
Michele said she credits Kurt’s success to the “inclusive environment” he experienced through the Gen Ed program he was enrolled in. “We kind of fought hard for that,” Michele said.
“Being social is just so important to him. This is going to be great for him, to be able to be with his peers, especially after COVID, there was so much time where, we were just home as a family, which was great …but he misses his friends a lot so this will be a nice way for him to get back into that.”