Today is Rachel’s last day of middle school. Please indulge me as I summarize our Middle School experience and our efforts for transition to High School with this “Dear Rachel” letter.
Three years have passed too quickly! Yet here we are, where in theory, you are spending your last few hours as an 8th grader. Truth is the grades and classes are done. Congratulations! At about 11:15 you will officially be a 9th grader. In these last three years, you have grown into an even more beautiful young lady. You have had even more amazing experiences. You made the honor roll six straight semesters. You have learned new concepts and read many, many books. You were elected as the 6th grade Queen of Kindness and selected to be a WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) leader in 8th grade. You were cast in your first school play and have acted in three more CYT productions. You went to church camp with your friends and you were baptized. You were featured as one of three teens with Down syndrome in “Just Like You-Down Syndrome” and were thrilled to have your good friend Savanna cast with you. You now have your own little presentation and you have spoken to groups in six states. You have met both of our United States Senators and Congressman and a few others, too. You have some of your same friends and you’ve added some new ones. You have become quite the little self-advocate. You figured out lunch and treats without breaking the bank and you only locked your key in your locker once in three years! You managed getting changed for PE. For three years now, you have set your own alarm, woke-up, got dressed and have eaten. Most days you even get your bed made!
You’ve found some new cheerleaders – teachers, paras, administrators and other staffers who are now part of your personal “Friends of Rachel” club. Your boy craziness lives on and you’ve experienced some heartache. You will experience more. Mom will somehow survive. Your inherent belief that everyone is your friend and belief that others are kind because you are has created some challenges. There will be more of that, too. You will be stronger and better able to navigate this world because of it -I hope. Three years ago we did everything humanly possible to make it a smooth transition and positive Middle School experience. Today, we leave Middle School having had a great experience that exceeded expectations.
In only a few short months, you will travel the halls of Olathe South as a high school student. Like the past almost 15 years of your life and with every transition, we have done everything humanly possible to make it a smooth transition and positive experience. We have had four meetings with administration, counselors, teachers and/or the principal. One of those was a get to know you meeting and you shared your “I Love My Life” presentation. One of the attendees said “Rachel shone.” I concur. You were in your element. Your core teachers then talked about you and I wanted to cry. Unrehearsed and unrehearsed they told about you, how your best learn, how you could learn even complex things, and how they had learned from you. They were adamant about meeting with your new team of teachers to give them insight on how you best learn. One teacher sent me a note that said, “I wish all my students were motivated to work and study as hard as she does. She’s amazing.” Again, I concur. We met your probable teachers and walked your schedule. We will do that several more times before school starts. Your probable teachers seem genuinely excited to have you. They even wanted to be sure they were meeting with your current teachers because they too want to know how to best help you reach your potential. We have given them books and websites and they have shared with us, too. We have focused on what is working and what we can continue to do to make you successful. When we walked your schedule, you knew someone on every corridor. That made my heart happy because I’ve been scouting out friends who can be my eyes in a school of 2,100 students. My entire school had less that 600 and that was K-12!
We have done what we can do and as always we now we trust God to take care of you and bridge the gaps by surrounding you with the right people. I have no doubt you will do your part, and you know your dad and I will try to do our part. Four years will pass quickly and I look forward to watching you smile your way across the stage and receive your high school diploma. Unfortunately, that is still not a reality for many of our friends with intellectual disabilities around the country. I suspect we will know by then where your post-secondary plans will take you. I also predict there will have been much discussion of Rock Chalk Jayhawk and Woo Pig Sooie. No matter, once again we will do everything humanly possible to propel you onto the next chapter of this journey called life. And we will be proud to be your mom and dad. We agree with that teacher, you are amazing. Now off to high school you go. It’s going to be another great adventure!
Love you always and forever,
Mom and Dad