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College Student With Down Syndrome Says She Was Rejected By Every Sorority On Campus

Heigl family / Evan Cantwell - George Mason University

At just 19 years old, AnnCatherine Heigl has already accomplished so much.

Which is why it's heartbreaking that she's making headlines this week for a long-held wish that didn't come true.

And her family says Heigl was denied an opportunity because of her disability.

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Heigl, from Zionsville, Indiana, was born with Down syndrome, and is well-known in her small community for her many achievements.

After being named the homecoming princess at her high school, Heigl participated in cheerleading, tennis, and choir, while volunteering as a teaching assistant in her spare time.

Heigl's family describe her as "loving and a kind person," but say she has to work hard to make new friends.

Despite dealing with symptoms of her condition - including fatigue, muscle weakness, and learning difficulties - Heigl showed strength in athletics and academics.

So after graduating from high school, she set her sights on attending college, just like her older siblings without Down syndrome had done.

"She started talking about where she would go to college and what that would look like," Heigl's mother Laura remembered.

"She has pushed for a long time that she was going to college and kept pushing us for options. We knew what she wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to make that happen in a way that would be productive for her."

After an exhaustive search for schools that welcome students with intellectual disabilities, the family settled on George Mason University's Learning Is For Everyone (LIFE) program.

It's one of the country's most prestigious and competitive programs of its kind - just 16 students were accepted for this year - but Heigl made it through the tough screening process.

AnnCatherine Heigl
Heigl poses with her acceptance letter in a George Mason shirt.Heigl family - Current

She made headlines in her hometown not just for being accepted, but also for earning scholarships from the national Down Syndrome Society and the Ruby's Rainbow foundation.

On her page for the Ruby's Rainbow scholarship, Heigl said she looked forward to joining a sorority and being a cheerleader in college.

But sadly, it was not meant to be.

"I felt like in a world that is not made to be inclusive to people with Intellectual Disabilities, once again she was excluded."

Heigl did become a cheerleader for George Mason's Division I basketball team, making her the first collegiate cheerleader in the country with an intellectual disability.

But as her older sister Lillie, 22, revealed in a viral tweet, Heigl's hopes of joining a sorority were dashed.

Lillie shared her email to George Mason's associate director of student involvement, Phil McDaniel, where she asks why Heigl couldn't make the cut for any of the school's eight sororities.

"AnnCatherine was released from recruitment Sunday morning and is upset," her letter begins.

"Her high school friends who have heard that she was released are absolutely shocked and amazed that NONE of your chapters wanted her as a sister."

Lillie wrote that her sister hoped to experience the "love, support and growth" of a sororotiy, but was let down despite her incredible resume.

"I felt like in a world that is not made to be inclusive to people with Intellectual Disabilities, once again she was excluded."

AnnCatherine Heigl
Heigl poses with her parents and sister Mari.Heigl family - Indy Star

She also claims that just 288 women rushed the college's eight sororities, raising even more suspicion that Heigl was rejected because of her disability.

"Accepting a woman with a disability to a chapter isn’t an act of charity," Lillie wrote. "It brings diversity and promotes inclusion."

Lillie makes a tough argument on her sister's behalf, noting that she embodies a sorority's values of "scholarship or intellectual curiosity."

It's also hard to imagine that another Division I cheerleader would be turned down by as many sororities as Heigl was.

Lillie even claims a sorority sister who helped AnnCatherine's bid said she was surprised by the outcome.

[H/T: Current, Indy Star, Fox 59]

What do you think of AnnCatherine's case?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com