Former National Gymnast Berk Canbulat with Down Syndrome Graduates from Our University

The graduation ceremony for the 2023-2024 academic year of Marmara University's Faculty of Sports Sciences was held at the Academy Stadium in Anadolu Hisarı Campus. Among the graduating students was Berk Canbulat, a former national gymnast with Down syndrome.

Berk Canbulat took the university entrance exam in 2013. Due to his status as a national athlete, according to the Council of Higher Education's regulations for outstanding sportsmen, he obtained the right to enter Marmara University's Sports Academy. However, according to the curriculum, a student with Down syndrome did not have the right to enter sports sciences. Initiating a legal battle, his family fought for a decade, finally winning the right to study at this university with a decision from the Council of State. Berk completed his studies in the Coaching Department of Marmara University's Faculty of Sports Sciences in four years, receiving his diploma at the ceremony held on the campus in Anadoluhisarı yesterday, from Marmara University Rector Prof. Dr. Mustafa Kurt.

Marmara University Rector Prof. Dr. Mustafa Kurt expressed the university's honor in graduating Turkey's first sports coach with Down syndrome. Highlighting Berk's fight, which opened the way for students with Down syndrome to enter sports science faculties, Prof. Dr. Kurt emphasized the importance of the amendments made by the Council of Higher Education. Prof. Dr. Kurt stated, "Today, as the rector of this university, I am very happy. The professors of the Faculty of Sports Sciences and our dean said that Berk is very intelligent, a very successful student. Four years ago, we welcomed Berk here as a student. Today, as a graduate representing Marmara as a sportsperson, we are proud. Berk wants to do a master's degree. Berk can do a master's degree, he can also be a lecturer here. Hopefully, we will be here, we will come to Berk's first class. Berk, will he organize a seminar, will he make us run? I don't know." 

Berk Canbulat graduated from the university with a GPA of 2.73. Struggling in marathons and running, he clung to education with the special efforts of his teachers and mother. He received his highest grade in adventure sports. "It does not matter whether it is difficult or easy. The important thing is to finish school" he said. 

Thanking his mother and family, Berk Canbulat stated that he did not forget the help of his friends in homework. Saying, "4 years full of memories that mean a lot to me," Canbulat said that his dream was to stay in the academic staff by doing a master's and doctorate at the university.

Berk, his friends and neighbors who came to the stadium did not leave him alone at the ceremony. Taking many pictures and selfies with his classmates, Berk threw his hat at the graduation ceremony.

Among those attending the ceremony, Marmara University Disabled Student Unit Coordinator Lecturer Zuhal Özgenç Pek said, "Berk Canbulat is our national athlete who has won five medals in six categories and has carried the Olympic torch. He graduated from Marmara University Faculty of Sports Sciences Coaching Department, this is his second university."

Emphasizing the support of Berk Canbulat's family in his success, Pek said, "Unfortunately, we can have prejudices against people. We can see how far people can come with the existence of a non-abandoning family behind a person with Down syndrome. I want to give a message to families here: families often try to think about and hide the differences in their children; they shouldn't hide them; They are all gems. The important thing is to fight alongside them for their success. Berk is a determined person and made great effort. His mother is a wonderful person. The efforts of those mothers make a big difference. It is a very beautiful day for me today. We had 150 students at our university this year. Berk is one of them. His breaking prejudices and achieving is a victory. Today, graduating is not just success, it's victory." 

The program ended with the presentation of graduation certificates and the cap throwing ceremony.