Just having read the email on his phone, Justin said,
I’m going to be a knight in shining armor!”
Those simple words, spoken to a camera with glee, seem to catch everyone’s breath.
The video of an overjoyed and emotional Justin Isaac, 21, filmed by his mother after he was accepted to the University of Central Florida, has made him a viral web sensation.
Posted last week on the Facebook page of UCF’s Inclusive Education Services, the video* so far has been viewed 164,000 times and shared more than 1,800. Isaac, who hails from Vero Beach and has Down syndrome, is shown texting a reply to the university, accepting one of up to seven spots available this fall for the inclusion program.
“I really can’t contain my excitement,” Isaac says, as he texts the reply to UCF “and I am happy to accept your offer.”
“Oh my gosh, this is amazing,” he says, wiping tears from his eyes.
“Hey, Justin, tell the camera what’s going on here, bud,” his mother, Lori, prompts.
“I’m going to college,” Isaac responds.
“Where are you going?” Mom asks.
“To the University of Central Florida, as a knight in shining armor!” Isaac shouts back.
With a series of woots, and chants of “Justin goes to college, Justin goes to college, Knightsy, Knightsy Knightsy!” the video ends, capturing the hearts of Knights everywhere.
Indeed, Isaac is going to college.
The new students selected for the fall semester, including Isaac, join 10 others who were part of UCF’s pilot program last fall designed for students with intellectual disabilities. Inclusive Education Services** at UCF is one of the most fully integrated programs in the nation—offering those with intellectual disabilities a full college experience. The students live on campus and attend regular classes with other UCF students.
The UCF family was elated to see the Isaacs’ video. Comments poured in from New York to Savannah, Ga., from current students and alumni.
Angel Sanchez, a student at The Burnett Honors College, wrote, “I’m so excited to call u a fellow Knight! Happy to have u Justin! I hope we can make u as proud and happy as u make us!”
And alumna Karen Best gave Isaac a shout-out, “Go Knights!! My Alma mater makes me proud!!!! Congrats!!”
Lori Isaac is thrilled for her son and the reaction to the video. First, he’s a “ham” and likes all the attention, she said. And second, it’s a reminder of her son’s achievements. She remembers being told that her baby, who is one of triplets, had been born with Down syndrome as well as pulmonary hypertension, a degenerative lung disease that narrows, blocks or destroys tiny arteries in the heart, making it harder to get blood to the lungs.
“He wasn’t supposed to live to high school, much less college,” she said. “But he did.”
His two sisters, Jenni and Lindsay, were born healthy. Jenni recently graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College in North Carolina and Lindsay is a model and communications major at Florida Institute of Technology. Justin, his mother said, spent a lot of time hospitalized as a child.
The family moved from Colorado to Connecticut so Justin could breathe a little easier at sea level. He continued to defy the odds, attending school and putting in more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work and raising more than $5,000 for his favorite charities, including the Special Olympics and the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
Two years ago, Isaac’s father, Russ, got a job in Indian River County, and the family moved again, this time to Vero Beach. Isaac spent two years at Vero Beach High School and became a favorite on the Fighting Indian’s football field: He conducted interviews on the sidelines and broadcasting from the press box for Indian River Educational TV.
Isaac also became an advocate for The Arc of Indian River, speaking at fundraising events around town and representing people with special needs.
Lori Isaac says her son is beyond happy and excited to attend UCF.
“After we visited the campus, we just couldn’t see him anywhere else,” she said. “This is what Justin wants. It’s his dream.”
Photo: Justin and his sisters, Lindsay and Jenni.