ZIONSVILLE, Ind.- AnnCatherine Heigl always knew she’d go to college, but her mom Laura wasn’t so sure.
“As much as we really encouraged her to do anything she wanted to do, we also had to be realistic,” said Laura Heigl.
When AnnCatherine was born doctors weren’t sure if she had Down syndrome. Her mother on the other-hand says she knew after an ultrasound when was 36 weeks pregnant and the baby measured “short.”
“She named a couple of things, or it could be Down syndrome. And I focused on that and I heard that, and I knew. I knew that she had Down syndrome,” said Laura.
What she didn’t know is that her little girl would someday win the hearts of so many people.
AnnCatherine left Zionsville High School last spring with quite the resume. She was a three-time homecoming princess, and a four-year member of both the tennis and cheerleading teams there.
“She had an incredible high school experience,” her mom said.
But she wanted more. Specifically, AnnCatherine wanted to go away for college just like her older brother and sister did.
However, her mom and dad didn’t know if college programs for people with intellectual disabilities existed.
After months of research, the Heigls found the Learning is For Everyone Program at George Mason University. It offered everything AnnCatherine wanted like job training, life skills development, and on-campus housing.
“She wanted to live on campus, like her brother and sister did. She wants to be involved on campus. She wanted to live in a dorm,” said Laura.
AnnCatherine received an acceptance letter from George Mason University last spring, making those “dreams” more of a reality. “I felt happy!” said AnnCatherine.
There will likely be lots of tears in late August when AnnCatherine starts her next chapter nine hours from home.
“There were phenomenal teachers, friends, pastors, coaches, and friends that all loved an invested in her and made this possible,” her father John said.
But AnnCatherine wants her parents to know that she’ll be just fine. “It’s good for me. It’s a good fit, and I’ll be safe,” she said.