4 Your Education: Young woman with Down syndrome prepares for graduation

21-year-old student with Down syndrome prepares for graduation.

Viva Selena Lopez is enjoying the last days with her classmates as graduation day approaches.

Lopez is one of the stars at Palmiew High School in La Joya and has been for many, many years. The 21-year-old technically graduated in 2013, but as a student with special needs, Lopez is allowed to continue her education until she ages out at 21.

That day has come.

During her time at Palmview High School, she has won over the hearts of everyone she meets.

Her mom couldn't be more proud of the varsity cheerleader who never turns down a challenge.

"She’s my hero," said Viva’s mother Mary Jane Lopez. "She taught me to stop and smell the roses."

Viva must now face a big new world--one where there are not many opportunities for people with Down syndrome.

“She is going to continue cheering and she’s part of capable kids and the RGV Down syndrome organization,” Mary Lopez said. “She goes to a lot of proms!"

Viva wants to attend college and make a career as a hairstylist and make-up artist.

"Curling and makeup," Viva said.

Viva’s peers, administrators and mom all believe she can do it. The hard part is letting go of a place and people she's grown to love.

"I'm going to miss my friends," said Viva.

She learned that her differences are what make her amazing and that people, even at a young age, can be accepting. But the tears of sadness now flow and some confusion has set in as Viva prepares for the end of this chapter like other high school seniors. Except in viva's case, she's not going off to live in a dorm, or study in a new classroom, or work a fun summer job.

Still, her optimism doesn't waver.

“We need to open doors for these children because this isn’t the end, this is the beginning of something new,” said Mary Lopez.

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