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Knoxville teen with Down syndrome finds success through writing

The super teen also has a black belt in Taekwondo, taught herself piano, plays clarinet in the marching band and organized her school's diversity prom.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville teenager Katelyn Cook doesn't like to sit still for very long.

The rising junior at South-Doyle High School plays clarinet in the marching band, loves photography, has a black belt in Taekwondo, and organizes her school's diversity prom. 

When she is still, it's usually because she's busy writing. 

"Writing, it's my passion. Some kids say, 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' I've got my whole life planned out," Cook said about her plans to go to college and become a creative writing professor. 

Cook grew up loving books. Her mom would read to her nearly every night, and as she got older, that interest sparked an even greater passion for writing. 

Cook recently won first place in the nonfiction category of the Knoxville Young Writers competition for a piece she wrote about relationships. 

"When I saw the post, I freaked out. It was first place, and I was like 'Oh, my God,'" Cook said, remembering the excitement she felt when she first heard the news.

Cook's success is nothing short of a miracle. 

Cook was born with Mosaic Down syndrome and spent two months in the NICU as an infant. 

"Doctors told us that her condition was rare, and they did not know what to expect for her future. They told us that she may not walk or talk on time. They told us that she probably would not be in regular classes in school and that if she was able to learn advanced concepts, there may come a time where her learning abilities came to a halt. We were scared for her but decided that we would challenge her, even more, to make her mind strong," her mother said.

Cook proved them wrong.

Credit: Katelyn Cook
A younger Katelyn Cook stands in front of a school project.

The 16-year-old is constantly learning. She says her next endeavor is to write a play. 

"I want everybody to know that you can do anything. If you want to do something, just do it," Cook said.