Jonathan came home yesterday and said he wanted to tell me about a dream his co-worker and our sweet friend Steve had shared. We met Steve when we first moved to Kansas and learned that like us he is a die-hard sports fan. He knows more sports statistics than anyone I have ever met. He is a KU fan and we are Arkansas Razorback fans but no matter, we all love sports. He is a sweet and kind person. I probably like him because like me he still writes hand written notes to people. He and his wife quickly became “FOR’s (Friends of Rachel). Apparently, he dreamed about Rachel a few nights ago. In his dream, he and his wife were heading out for Rachel’s high school graduation party/college signing party. She had been offered scholarships to multiple schools including Arkansas, KU and Princeton. In Steve’s dream, the scholarship is a full ride. That story made me smile and caused me to daydream a bit about the future.It is May 2018 and Rachel just graduated from Olathe South. A ton of friends and family including all of her teachers from Ms. Dickey at Emmanuel Methodist Preschool to Mrs. Sunflower at Olathe South attended graduation and are heading to the after party. The after party is the highlight because Rachel has decided to announce her college choice at the party. What a dream for her daddy and me! Not so long ago, very few states offered diplomas to students with disabilities but she has completed all her course work and worked very hard. Since we live in Kansas, she was able to get a diploma just like all the other kids. Believe it or not, there are still many states where students with disabilities do not receive a diploma. One of the highlights of her years at Olathe South was that she got to be on the cheer team. She doesn’t think she will cheer in college though. Her party is typical Rachel. Lots of pink and animal prints and ice cream sundaes and chocolate cake by E. Can’t wait to see what masterpiece E has transported from Memphis. Rachel has requested hot dogs, cheese dip and mom’s guacamole for the other food. It is her party.
Announcing her college choice. I well remember when I learned she had Down syndrome and one of my first thoughts was that she would never be able to go to college at the University of Arkansas like her daddy and me. From the time I was a little girl, that was my ultimate dream for myself and it came true. I still love Northwest Arkansas and the University so much. Of course on that dark day when we heard the diagnosis of Down syndrome, I didn’t know much about Down syndrome and had no clue what “intellectual disability” meant. I’ve learned a lot since then. Society has made a lot of progress since 1999. Not enough – there are still not enough college programs for students with intellectual disabilities but the work of people like Stephanie Lee at NDSS has paid off and many more programs are coming to fruition. Rachel is going to major in hotel management and tourism because she wants to work on a Disney Cruise ship. She always wanted to be a teacher but we went on a Disney Cruise for her 13th birthday and that changed her mind. We don’t care what she does as long as she is happy.
Her friend Ben is here. Ben and his family came from Memphis for her graduation and party. We’ll head down for his next week. He has already announced his college choice. He is going to Indiana University where his mom and dad both did graduate work. He is working on getting his driver’s license and he wants to be a meteorologist. Ben also has Down syndrome. His mom worked with the Tennessee legislature to get the rules and regulations changed so Tennessee students with disabilities are able receive diplomas and not just a certificate of attendance. We’ve been through a lot together and are so excited to be able to share in these milestones too. It doesn’t seem like so long ago when they were graduating from Special Kids and Families Early Intervention program. They were so cute in those little caps and gowns.
Rachel just arrived. Her friend Savanna is with her. I wonder if Savanna knows what Rachel has decided? She didn’t tell her daddy and me yet. It’s time. She said she wasn’t going to keep everyone waiting. “I have decided to attend….”
Whew. I just snapped back to reality. It is July 2011 and we’re getting ready to start middle school. I read this and ponder what will be dreams and what will be reality? And I smile and giggle and say thanks to Steve for his dream that gave me the opportunity to dream a little too.