For today’s blog, I will give you insight on my school experience as someone with Down Syndrome as well as some of the steps we had to go through. My parents always said to pick your battles and figure out which ones are worth fighting to receive the best schooling.
I started school at the age of a mere 18 months in an early education program at Main Street School. I progressed through school to graduate with my class at the age of 18. I was always in an inclusive setting. I won’t say there weren’t some bumps along the way but my parents always thought it was best for me to be included and reach for my highest potential. They did sometimes have to push for that along the way but always felt it was worth it.
It was always better for me in first grade. I had a wonderful teacher, Neila Brown, who had stations for us to move around through so I didn’t have to sit in one place all day. It was definitely better for me! It also worked well for me in 7th grade and on when we began changing classes. I won’t say that transitioning from class to class didn’t take a little while but with the help of my one-on-one it became easy. I earned awards in 8th and 9th grades for English, Math, character, commitment and courage. My final grade for algebra was in the 90’s and I got a 93% on my Math regents exam. If you are from New York State you know how tough that is!
The years in which I had teachers that didn’t believe in me were the ones where I had the hardest time, and the years where the teachers and support staff were supportive were my best. In my early schooling we did not have true inclusion. In second grade I started hiding and running away and I know you’re thinking “Oh she would never do that right?” Well the good thing is, I gained a teacher’s aide all for my little ole self because they were not really doing true inclusion at the time. I also had one teacher aide Ms. Powers, she was excellent. She taught me how to be confident and be independent.
Then while in high school I had another teacher’s aide who wanted to help me cross the hallway and wanted to hold my hand. I was not about to go backwards, I certainly didn’t need that kind of help. I had to let her know I have my own feet, thank you very much.
During high school I was doing a work study program through the library and I really enjoyed it because I love to read and am still an avid reader. While attending high school I also did a program at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services also known as BOCES. I took an office technology course for adults. It was set up for me to go through it twice. I graduated from BOCES where I learned many office skills that help me today. It was a great milestone.
I am very proud to say I was inducted into my high school’s wall of fame in 2017. My hope is that some one who is differently abled will look on that wall and see my picture and realize they can also work hard and get there as well.
Recently, I started at Onondaga Community College taking some non-credit courses and thought, well this doesn’t make sense, I’m doing all the work and not getting any credit for it. I liked taking courses so I started taking one course at a time, for credit, and can happily say I am now well on my way to my Associates degree in General Studies. I have 44 credits as of now and start back again later this month. I love taking classes with my peers, actually most of them are probably a little younger than me, but so what! I am SO looking forward to reaching the milestone goal of getting my degree.