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Valedictorian wants to help disabled, elderly (w/video)

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
June 4, 2014 at 1:04 a.m.
Updated June 5, 2014 at 1:05 a.m.

Below: Victoria West valedictorian Breanna Takacs, 18, performs a rap she wrote with a classmate for an economics project. In addition to graduating at the top of her class, Takacs has also participated in a number of extracurricular activities throughout her high school career, including student council, soccer, Relay for Life, the Leo Club and the Texas Performance Standards Project.

On a visit to the Down Home Ranch in Elgin, east of Austin, Breanna Takacs witnessed something she never knew was possible - two adults with Down syndrome living their lives as husband and wife.

"I didn't think they could get married and stuff," Takacs, 18, said. "I watched in admiration and awe that they were doing so well - not letting a disability get in the way of them pursuing their lives."

The Victoria West High School senior class valedictorian has studied Down syndrome the past few years as part of her annual Texas Performance Standard Project assignments.

On Friday, Takacs will celebrate her high school graduation with 329 other Victoria West High School students at Memorial Stadium. She will be following in the footsteps of her older sister, Rebecca Takacs, who was West's valedictorian in 2011.

Studying people with Down syndrome shifted Takacs' career goals, who previously wanted to become a general practice doctor but now seeks a career in which she can marry her two passions: people with disabilities and caring for the elderly.

Her connection with her father's former father-in-law, Malcolm "Mac" Graham, 90, sparked her interest in geriatrics.

"I was only 5 years old when I met him; he was really cool," Takacs said. "I see him every Christmas now."

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Takacs said she hopes to attend the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to study geriatric services.

While Takacs said she's enjoyed her time as a West Warrior, she hopes to see the course selection for advanced learners expand.

"Our teachers are good, but a lot of the students in some of my AP classes were not willing to do the work, which slowed the rest of us down," Takacs said. "They should have more AP classes or create a lower-level course that could be called honors or college prep.

"If we had more options, it could be more challenging," Takacs said.

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