When talking inclusion Rachel’s two most legendary peers are George and Savanna. I share the story of George to end almost every presentation and if you’ve missed it, here’s a link to Power of Inclusion: My Friend George! Of course Savanna is Rachel’s friend and famous because of her role in Just Like You – Down Syndrome. Oksana, Alli, Gabby and Andrew are a few others who have been touted for their example. And then there is Andrea. She’s been mentioned before but today we are focused on her and her significant other who is also a friend of Rachel’s.
We met Andrea through Christian Youth Theater. Andrea has huge talent. It would be easy for her to think she is better than others because she is remarkable. But Andrea is the kid with the remarkable heart too. She is the CYT kid who is sitting in the middle of the eight and nine-year old’s in the green room and playing silly games or braiding hair. God made Andrea with a great, big heart and her mom and dad deserve some credit for raising her right! Some of that heart is because she has a sibling with Down syndrome. She sees her sister’s abilities first. Like many if not most siblings of individuals with Down syndrome, I think she would tell you that she is a better person because of her sister. Andrea has seen the way her own sibling was left out, too. She knows that kids with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities need a little more help to be included sometimes.
Andrea’s significant other is Justin. We met Justin at church. We’ve gotten to know him and his wonderful family. We have watched him grow into a fine young man of integrity. He is loving, kind, fun and inclusive. He also does CYT and I watch the way he treats Rachel and others who are younger than he is. He treats them with dignity and doesn’t see himself as the older kid who doesn’t have time for the underlings! I have often said that Andrea is a saint and I would say the same about Justin.
I blogged last week about Rachel being chosen as the Freshmen Girl Rep on the Winter Court at her high school. It was a crazy week with school assemblies, basketball game coronations and it all culminated with the WPA (Women Pay All) dance. For Rachel the dance was the highlight. She had invited her friend Ryan. They’ve been friends for about six years and they “kind of like each other.” The romanticist Rachel is in love with the idea of happily ever after you know. Rachel says it was her first date. Often students with disabilities are left out of the group invitations for prom, homecoming and other such school events. It’s a little harder to engineer it all. This is the text Andrea sent to me a few weeks before WPA:
Of course Rachel was thrilled and both Justin and Andrea were wonderful friends to them helping them as needed for the evening. They would say differently but they were willing to sacrifice some of their own special time to include Rachel and Ryan. Rachel and Ryan report that it was the best evening ever.
A few pictures from the evening:
Rachel loved showing everyone her wrist and saying, “My date gave me this corsage.”
I think there are a lot of young people who are inspiring and amazing. Yes, they can be frustrating, stubborn, unthinking, rude, mean and like adults, they are all a work in progress. I’ve spent most of my adult life working with teenagers in some capacity be it for pay or volunteer. My masters degree is in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis in adolescent development. I think it is interesting that we as adults comment on “kids” not being inclusive and being “clique.” I think about church and wonder is there a cliquier group of people than adults at church. That includes me, myself and I. My faith in our future has gone up a few notches this past few weeks. Thank you Andrea, Justin, Oksana, George, Allie, Andrew, Jordan, Ashley Hanna and so many others for being a part of that. Andrea and Justin, thank you for setting a good example. I hope others will follow your lead.