Rachel – The Pioneer

Honestly, last week was one of those where I was on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. On this journey with the precious girl who happens to have an extra chromosome, there are some hurts that I harness in my own heart because I don’t want her sweet little heart to know what people are really like and that discrimination in the form of unthinking, unthoughtful and unkind people is very much alive. I can’t and shouldn’t always protect her from the hurts. But sometimes I must. I can hear my college pastor saying “Jawanda, people will always disappoint you. Jesus is the only one who won’t disappoint.” I believe and claim that or I’d really be a mess.

If you know me or follow my blog, you know I don’t camp on nonsense for long. Had my little pity party and now I gotta keep on keeping on. So I shall turn my attention to sharing something really, really great.

The program description said:

21st Century Programs High School Programs

Early Childhood Career Opportunities (ECCO)
(District Early Childhood Centers)

Prepare for a fascinating and rewarding career in child development and/or early childhood education through hands-on experience in a preschool lab that lets students explore their passion to help develop the next generation. Students in this two-year program:

  • Work directly with preschool children in unique lab settings at one of our two early childhood centers
  • Prepare materials to use in the classroom
  • Acquire the skills needed to enter the early childhood career field and/or continue your education at the post-secondary level

Since Rachel was old enough to say what she wanted to be, she has said she wants to be a teacher. Of course she has added actress and few other things to the list but her list always includes teacher. It is in her IEP. It is in her transition plan. Most recently, she mentioned working  at a children’s hospital. She took the Babysitter Class through the Olathe Public Library and still refers to the materials. She has taken parenting and child development. She told me the other day how you must never hurt a baby. If you are mad, you should count to 10. She sometimes works with the children at church and they seem to really be drawn to her. She is gentle, kind and patient. And she likes the snacks.

We’ve planned for her to apply to be in the ECCO program since we learned about it. Juniors and seniors in our school district can apply and they spend two hours a day during their junior and senior years  working in the child development center. They work directly with the children but they also take coursework on child development and related materials to prepare for their career.  Rachel applied and was accepted. We are thrilled.

Last week we attended the mandatory Open House for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Career Program. She was really excited that one of the volleyball girls is in the program. Rachel was fretting about getting back for the games and her friend assured her it would be okay. As you can see Rachel was grinning ear to ear.

BWW16 IPS OS Prom 116

We met the teacher and the program coordinator. Later in the week we met the resource teacher who helps make sure there are supports for Rachel to be successful.  We learned that Rachel is the first person with Down syndrome to be in this program.

Like most things in life, there are pro’s and con’s to being the first. I suspect we’ll encounter both. I was encouraged by our interactions with the leadership. Everyone had a welcoming look in their eyes and none of them had that “oh my gosh we have a student with Down syndrome, we have no idea what to do” look.  The were all inviting, enthusiastic and seemingly open-minded.

We shared expectations and we agreed that we would figure it out together.

It is not the first time.

I am fairly certain it won’t be the last.

* Jonathan and I are most appreciative of those on Rachel’s Team and all the other “Friends of Rachel” who share our high expectations and are supporting and encouraging her to exceed expectations and seize available opportunities.



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  1. Congratulations to Rachel. She will be a great asset working with the children. She has a special empathy & wisdom that she can access when she is working with children — not to mention her spunky style!!

  2. Yeah Rachel…the future Teacher of the Year! SOOO excited about your acceptance to the 21st Century Program! They are so blessed to have you! Great writing, as always, Jawanda! Love you and your family! Le

  3. She is going to be so great in that area! Who understands inclusion and marching to your own drum better than that sweet girl? I can’t wait to see her shine! (some more)

  4. Congrats Rachel!!! Pave the way girl, and know the Holmans are praying for you. No one ever said being a pioneer was easy, only the toughest get chosen for duty, but God walks with you. Yes!!!??

  5. Congratulations to Rachel! What an exciting opportunity for her. I did the exact same program in high school (when I rode my dinosaur to class, lol) and that is where my love of early childhood education came from. I know Rachel has a lot of live to give, to both typical children and those with special needs. It would be awesome if there were an inclusive daycare, school she could work in and serve as a role model instructor for a child with DS. I can’t imagine the joy a parent would have to see how far their child could progress through Rachel. I think I told you when I was pregnant with my last, we were told his AFP test showed a much higher likelihood than normal for him having DS. We chose to do nothing with the info because it wouldn’t have changed any decisions for us. He was born with the normal amount of chromosomes after all,but I can’t imagine loving him less had he not been. But oh my were the doctors doom and gloom. Presenting the absolute worst case scenarios and basically told me it was irresponsible not to get the diagnostic testing done and at least considering termination, if not for me, at least think of my three other kids. As if killing their brother had he not been deemed “normal” would have been some sort of twisted proof of my love and devotion for them. I hope Rachel and her sassy self changes attitudes towards those who have DS and no parent ever feels pressured to “spare them” the wonderful life Rachel has, thanks to her creator, her beautiful spirit and her caring, devoted parents. Her life is every bit as worthwhile and wonderful as that of my typical chromosome son. Through all her hard work and your devotion, those who know her see that.

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