WESTLAND, Mich. -

"I always thought that when people say you can't do this ... I have to prove them wrong," says Angela Long of Westland. 

Her mother, Linda, explains that Angela is the epitome of perseverance.

"A doctor came into the room hours after she was born to say we have a child with special needs, and I didn't know what that meant at that point for her life," Linda said.  

Diagnosed with Down syndrome 31 years ago, Angela doesn't let that hold her back.

"She has earned something, and her sister has earned something, that her parents never have -- and that's a college degree," said Angela's father, Jeff.

It took her 12 years, but failure was never an option, even if it meant taking a math class four times. 

"It was tough of course. I had to take a class four times in a row, but the fourth time, I finally passed that class," Angela said.

Her family says there were several times when they weren't sure if she would go on, but in the end, she did.  

"We were all parked in front of the computer when she went to the Schoolcraft College website to get her grades, she saw the grades and she started screaming, and we all were screaming and jumping around," her father said.

Angela's grad party

If anyone had an excuse to throw in the towel, it was her. She has paid for every book and every class out of her own pocket by working at Kroger over the past 15 years.

"So many people told me that I can't do this, that I'm not going to make anything of myself, but who's laughing now," Angela said.  

Angela is responsible for coordinating her own transportation to and from work and school, a responsibility her parents feel strongly about. 

"I realize that my wife Linda and I aren't going to be forever. It's more meant to convey a sense of responsibility so I as a father will know that when I am gone she's going to be ok," Jeff said.  

Beating all odds, she has surpassed every goal set for her. 

"I finally am going to walk across that stage and I'm going to have my day," Angela said.  

Over the weekend, Angela graduated with an associates degree in liberal arts from Schoolcraft College.

With one goal conquered, the next is to inspire others, which she is already well on her way. 

Her mother says that Angela always talks about writing the story of her life and she thinks it would be good for her to share it. 

State Senate recognizes Angela

When asked what is next, Angela simply says with a confident chuckle, "You'll see my name in lights one day." 

Individuals with Down syndrome have the opportunity to participate in a variety of postsecondary education programs across the country.

Click here to learn more and to find a college near you: National Down Syndrome Society