A LOCAL teenager has defied the odds and overcome an extraordinary set of challenges in her life to take on the Junior Certif and pass the exam with flying colours.When Emily Accardi opened her Junior Cert results she was making a statement that anything is possible and that with hard work, a loving family and a great support network, great things can happen. Emily was born with Down syndrome and had open-heart surgery when she was just five months old. She went on to develop problems with her sight and hearing. A FAMILY in Baskin Lane in Kinsealy has more reason to celebrate the Junior Certificate results than most with a daughter that has overcome an extraordinary set of challenges in her life to pass the exam with flying colours. When Emily Accardi opened her Junior Certificate results she was making a statement that anything is possible and that with hard work, a loving family and a great support network, unimaginable things can happen. And this day certainly was unimaginable for her family when Emily was born with Down Syndrome and had open heart surgery at the tender age of five months – she has had an incredible journey. Emily was born in up-state New York to her American father, Tony, and Irish mother, Theresa. Being born in the United States gave Emily's early life a head start with access to treatments and therapies that may not have been available here and helped her develop her speech, motor and cognitive skills. But wanting to bring up Emily among her Irish family and the large support network that brings, the Accardi family took her home, first to the Naul, when she was four years of age. She attended a wonderful Montessori school in Ballyboughal which gave her the start in mainstream education that she maintains until this day. A couple of false starts at primary level eventually led the family to Portmarnock and St. Helen's where Emily's primary education was played out and where her challenges became even greater after she was diagnosed as having a visual impairment called ' mystagmus' which causes the eye to 'jump horizontally' intermittently. Emily's progress through school was staggering despite all the challenges she had to deal with on a daily basis and soon it was time for her mother and father to seek out a secondary school for their extraordinary daughter. After an exhaustive search the family, who had by now moved to Baskin Lane, settled on St. Mary's in Baldoyle where they and more importantly, Emily, were welcomed with open arms. Emily's mother, Theresa, said finding St. Mary's was like 'stepping into the light' for the family.' The have a holistic approach to each and every student that goes to that school – they want the best for the children and they strive to deliver the best for them,' she said. Emily thrived in the school, even though by now she had also been diagnosed with a hearing impairment. Her Special Needs Assistant (SNA), Anne-Marie guided her through daily life at teh school and she had help from a large network of supports from a speech therapist to a psychologist from St. Michael's House. With all of that help, as well as a fantastic resource teacher in Mr Burke at St Mary's and all the school's brilliant teachers, and the love and support of her friends in the school, Emily chose to sit the Junior Certificate alongside her classmates and took six subjects in the exam. Fast forward to last week when the results came out and Theresa described what happened as the envelope was handed to Emily: 'Her whole body was shaking so I opened the envelope and I just kept seeing all these Bs and Cs – we just hugged and cried and hugged and cried and Emily screamed with excitement. 'Her home economics teacher was crying, the principal was crying, everyone was just elated and the other students were just so excited for her.' Emily had recorded B grades in science, history, home economics and art and a C in foundation English and Maths – an extraordinary achievement given the obstacles she had to overcome to get there. Now enjoying Transition Year at the school, Emily will decide later whether she takes on the challenge of the Leaving Certificate but whatever she decides, she will have the support of her very proud family and her school.