The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
8 E 41st Street, 8th Floor
New York New York 10017
[email protected] 

Interviews with Recipients

Kate Bartlett

What classes did you take?

Last fall I took computer essentials class, and I took a 6 credit English Class. I also took an intro to College Reading. I liked them a lot. I am working towards getting my associates degree.

What was your favorite class?

My favorite class was Voice class and Photography class, because I love to sing, and I learned a lot. I took a photography class before in 9th grade. I loved my professors, they help you when you need it. Marylyn Black was my favorite professor, she helped me through things. She taught Fundamentals of English and Intro to College Reading.

Did taking these courses help you decide on a future career or future classes to take?

I really like fashion [and I] hope to take a class in that in the future. I am also hoping to take a musical theatre class, because I love to sing. I was in “Tommy” at a community theatre in Arlington. I played the ministers daughter, and I met a lot of nice people.

What did getting this scholarship mean to you?

Getting this scholarship meant a lot and I was very honored to receive it. I know many others applied for it, and I felt special that I got it.

You testified in front of Congress on behalf of NDSS at a Hearing on Oversight of Federal Employment Programs for Persons with Disabilities. What was that like?

Speaking in front of the Senate was great! I was a bit nervous; there were hundreds of people there. I spent time with two senators: Kennedy and Enzy of Wyoming. I liked it because I blew them away, because I have DS and I showed them I have a normal life. They gave me a standing ovation. I like speaking in front of large groups.

On receiving the NDSS Voices Award and visiting New York City:

I walked around with my mom and dad. I really liked NYC. Tavern on the Green was great –it took my breath away. I was very honored to receive the award. It was nice to meet the people from NDSS. We took the train and that was nice.

Rob Magill

Rob took a one on one class with Jared, a film student, and learned about special effects and different shots.

Did you like working with Jared?

Yes I did, we had a good time together. Once a week we worked and and we had a great time.

What was your favorite special effect you learned? How does it work?

Blow up the box was my favorite. I show the video we made to people in Cheyenne and they like it.

What interested you to work with film/videos?

I love it and I started my business, Rob’s Forum, with my mom. My mom and Tom all help me with film, too.

Tell us more about your business, Rob’s Forum.

My business is Rob’s Forum. I work with Video, DVD, home movies, transfer stuff from the CD to the DVD, and home movies. I have been working there for five years.

Have you been able to use the special effects and editing techniques you learned with Jared in your business, Rob’s Forum?

I have made three video resumes. They take 45 minutes each to film and many more hours to edit.

Do you want to learn more about filmmaking? With Jared?

 I would like to work with Jared again and I would like to learn more. Jared graduated from college and is going to Ohio for film school. He wants me to help him with a documentary he is making.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

Star Wars is my favorite movie. It is all about special effects and I like that. I also like Independence Day and Rambo because they cool special effects, too.

What did getting this scholarship mean to you?

It is great, I like it. I have very good inner confidence because of it.

Kyle McGonigal

Hi! My name is Kyle McGonigal and I am 23 years old. I live in Kendall, NY and was one of the first recipients of the Joshua O’Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund in July 2005.

With the grant money, I took three classes at Genesee Community College (GCC) in the fall of 2005. The classes I took were Public Speaking, Healthful Living, and Responding to Emergencies. My favorite class was Healthful Living—we made a family tree and it was fun since I found out about my relatives. I got to look at old pictures that went way back. I enjoyed my professor, Peg Sisson; she helped me learn about my health and how to eat right. I also made good friends at GCC. A dozen of them were friends from my high school. I became friends with the person who helped me take notes and we ate lunch together after class. We mostly talked about sports. I was also good friends with the lunch ladies. I always ate a ham sandwich and they remembered my order. These classes were important because the credits counted toward my Coaching Certificate.

In the spring of 2006, I did an internship for credit, which completed my certificate requirements. For my internship, I worked with the baseball team at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. I made several close friends and it was the best team I’ve ever worked with. The team asked me to travel to Tampa, FL with them on spring break. The team bought me a new baseball glove and gave it to me on the plane to Tampa. The weather was warm and sunny and it was a blast. We had our team meetings after the game by the pool. I felt like I had thirty brothers. One freshman even did my laundry! I learned a lot from my internship such as you need to be healthy, respect the players, and always be the best. And my coach also taught me to like country music! After finishing my internship, I graduated from GCC with my coaching certificate. Hillary Clinton was the speaker at my graduation! All I need to do is send a transcript certificate to the State of New York to make it final. And then when I get it back, I’m going to put it on my wall and smile. I had to take a lot of classes for the certificate and it took me one and a half years.

I would like to take more classes in the future. I would like to take Sign Language, or art and pottery for fun. My dream job would be to work with the Atlanta Braves and be in the dugout. But for now, I have plenty to keep me busy. In the summer I have a part time job working in the Rec. room of the Buffalo Bills training camp. I am also working at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I help with the induction ceremony, I seat dignitaries and it’s a big deal. I also work at the welcome center at the Erie Canal, telling boaters about the area. I like it because you need to be friendly and like to welcome people.

Getting chosen as a recipient of the Joshua O’Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund was great and means that there is someone who believes in me to achieve my goals besides my mom and dad. The scholarship helped me to get everything I need at college.

Kayla McKeon

I am honored and touched to have won the Joshua O’Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund. Thank you very much for giving me the money to be able to attend classes at Onondaga Community College.

With the money I received from NDSS, I started taking American Sign Language 101 at college. I am learning sign, and all about the deaf culture. My professor is deaf, and great to learn from. This is a new learning experience. For the first couple of weeks I was having a little difficulty. I started to see a tutor and have brought my grade up to a B-. I am striving for an A or A-.

I did some extra credit such as attending a lecture about Careers in Interpreting – it was very interesting. Another extra credit was when I went to Panera’s (a restaurant) where the deaf community hangs out and welcomes us to join with them in conversation and coffee. I was nervous at first because I thought maybe I couldn’t keep up with them. It was a great social setting. I fit in well and they helped and included me into conversations.

Since I have been enrolled in college, the Disability Director asked that I be on the student panel. We were invited to hear speaker Marc Elliot speak about his disability and comment on it. It was an honor to be asked.

I like Onondaga Community College for the college life also. I feel like I fit in with my peers.

In January, I will be taking an American Sign Language 102 class and maybe a public speaking course following that. I love public speaking and can always make improvements. I recently spoke to over 1,000 teachers in the North Syracuse School District and wow, do I really like to do that.

This scholarship means so much to me because it enables me to continue my education and be a college student and I really love it. Thank you again for the wonderful opportunity.

Casey O'Connor

I am Casey O'Connor. I live in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina with my parents, who I love to death. I am writing this article because I am one of the 2010 Joshua O'Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund recipients, and I am a student in the L.I.F.E. Program at Coastal Carolina University. L.I.F.E. stands for "Learning Is For Everyone." I am a sophomore. I think Coastal Carolina University is a great college to go to because it is a beautiful campus. Coastal is a campus full of sharing. Friends, mentors and professors all help me learn. We have a good time. I live in the dorm with three other guys. We get along great. I like Coastal because the classes are interesting and the people are nice.

I am doing well in my classes so far. My favorite class to go to is Personal Fitness because I like all of the activities and I can participate. Last semester I took history. It was very interesting. We learned about World War II. The best part about Coastal is all the games and activities that we go to. I like to cheer for Coastal during different sporting events that go on around the campus. I get to work with the football team and in the library. My goals at Coastal are to find a job that I am good at, learn to live on my own so I can have my own place, meet new friends, enjoy all the activities and learn about being a winner. All the L.I.F.E. program students are learning a lot. We can use the strength that Coastal Carolina University gives us to take our place in the world.

Carrie Raabe

What class did you take last spring?

I took a Speech 100 class and took it for credit and got an A-, which is pretty good. I loved the class. I even made the effort of studying which I did well. I took the class was because I wanted to enhance my vocabulary when I public speak in different places. I learned is to speak clearing and not look down at your speech as often and look at your audience more.

Do you think you got better at public speaking?

Yes, I know I did.

Do you think this class has helped you do it better?

Yes, actually it helped a lot and I am up to that challenge.

What kinds of public speaking have you done in the past (speaking in front of large organizations, etc.)?

I have been doing that already and I do awesome. I do not get nervous at all. I have talking to the US Department of Education,National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, AZ Department of Education, Nampa School District Transition Fair (Idaho), International CEC conference for Career Development and Transition, International TASH conference, and a few others.

Do you hope to speak more often in public?

Yes, I do and it makes others realize how important that I touch their lives.

Did you like your teacher and the other classmates?

Yes I did like the teacher. He would either have on a tie or jean’s for casual day and my classmates were pretty nice.

Did you make any new friends?

I try making new friends but it is not easy to do even though I have just a few friends here in Flag(staff). Some of them went to college and some passed away so the friend I have now is in Boise Idaho and going to the Philippines for 6 months and coming back home.

If you did, how did you become friends with them?

Well that question is pretty hard to answer but I will try my best to answer. I think what you are saying is when you were in school did you make friends, my answer is yes I did make friends but not until sophomore year in high school.

Which class did you take this past fall?

American Sign Language. I took this class because I wanted to see what the difference between spoken English is and what being deaf is like. I learned how to use facial expression, making eye contact and learning what they are saying.

Do you have any friends that you can practice your sign language skills with?

No, I want somebody from my work at IHD (Northern Arizona University, Institute for Human Development) to take up sign language and communicate with me in sign.

Did you have to speak in front of the class? Were you nervous?

We did have to do a story in sign language and it was hard to do. Yes I was a little, but I got over it.

Do you want to take more classes about sign language in the future?

No not really. It would be too hard to study and work at IHD. I’m taking a break from taking classes right now. I need to focus on my work at IHD. When I did take classes I would study at work thinking that it would work out, but it did not. It is not healthy to do that.

Do you hope to have a job someday using sign language?

Well I do have a job, but they don’t use sign language with me at all. I wish they did on a regular basis.

What did getting this scholarship mean to you?

Well, I liked being on the college campus with students my age. Getting the scholarship got me through 2 semesters of school and helped me get the books I needed for those classes. I feel as if you guys helped me get on my way in college. I now have college credits and know I can do it.

Phil With

I took three classes: Keyboarding, Beginning Computer PC, and How to Become a Self-Advocate. I took computer classes for work, I work at a Self-Advocate Center and I kind of like working with computers there. I answer phones, check emails, give presentations, and work with University of New Mexico students.

In my Self-Advocate class they teach us how to work in the community; how to get transportation, and learn basic skills. In my Beginning Computer PC class, I used what I learn like how to move files, work in windows, and how to turn it off and on. I want to take more classes, like the PowerPoint presentation class and I want to retake the Keyboarding class so I get better. I really enjoyed my Professor, Susan Copeland, she is a great, great teacher. In the class I really tried to stay focused on the learning.

I was really happy to get the scholarship, and thank you for giving money for the Scholarship and thank you for letting me have it.

Sara Wolff

I took two classes, Interpersonal Communications (in the fall) and Intro to Theater (in the Spring). In my Theater class we acted out different situations in front of class. In this class we critiqued other plays and movies. For our final project we did a monologue; I chose to do Grade B from “Our Town”. My favorite part was interacting with students in class- we helped each other to learn our monologues. I would like to take more theater classes in the future, and maybe want to be in a play. My Interpersonal Communications class helped a lot with speaking, helped communication with the audience, and to speak clearly with confidence. I also like to interact with new people like, I changed their attitude and they were surprised that I worked really hard.

I am still working at the law firm –and I have been able to be more confident when I guide clients to the attorneys because of the class I took. I would love to stay where I am at work; I like the schedule and meeting new people and the relationships I have there. Part of my goals is to do more speaking engagements and I love to volunteer in hospitals and nursing homes. I am also a lectern at my church.

Getting this scholarship meant a lot financially. I can now save money precisely to take classes in the fall. I think that there should be more help for future education for people with Down syndrome. It was a great honor to receive this scholarship.

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