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"HE CAN AND HE WILL" | Mount Pleasant teen with Down Syndrome starts college at Clemson

Frankie Antonelli (WCIV)

A Mount Pleasant teen's journey to college is inspiring kids with intellectual disabilities, and providing hope for their parents.

Kids across South Carolina are back in school, including recent Wando High School graduate Frankie Antonelli.

The bond of the three Antonellli brothers is not unlike a force of nature. On a hot day in August, it was too wet to play, so they sat in the house knowing Frankie would soon be on his way.

Asked what he would miss most about his brother, Frankie's older brother Joey said, "Just being around him and how funny he is."

Younger brother Patrick will soon be left alone, "I'll miss playing with him. Won't be able to play with him as much as if he were here."

A laundry list of items had been checked, the middle brother ready to roll into a new chapter of life. Clemson Life.

"It is incredible to think 20 years ago when Frankie was born this wasn't an option for us. Families like us didn't have a chance. People today have a lot to look forward to. There are a lot of options out there, just in our state there are five places you can choose from," said Frankie's mom, Debbie Antonelli.

Frankie was born with Down Syndrome, but raised no different than his two brothers.

"A lot of times people give them a pass because they see him and think he can't, he won't or he doesn't. That's the wrong attitude. He should be treated like everyone else because he can and he will," said Antonelli.

The collegiate game plan was set in Frankie's 7th grade year. The full court press was on. The X's and O's led them to a program designed for students with intellectual disabilities.

"It is remarkable to believe there is a place called Clemson Life that provides them incredible life skill opportunities, to live independently. They teach them finance, budgeting, how to cook, how to be a good roommate and how to be a good teammate," said Antonelli.

When asked what the program will allow him to do, Frankie's answer was simple.

"To make good choices at school. It is very important to be responsible," said Frankie.

With Frankie you get smiles for miles. With an infectious personality, friendships are so very important. One of his besties, die-hard Gamecock fan Darius Rucker, joined Frankie at his graduation party and took part in a very special duet of Wagon Wheel.

A pretty special parting gift, but the gift of growth is inherent to the Antonelli family vision.

"I've wanted the same thing for my three boys. To be happy, healthy, involved and included."

Frankie will tell you that he is strong and powerful. Much like the storm that passed over the Antonelli's home the day with spoke with the.

Inside, they are all in supporting a young man not with special needs but with special abilities.

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