In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of the six achievers we will be honoring at our Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers gala on April 25. Our achievers are people with disabilities who have excelled in the arts, classroom, business world, and beyond. You can follow along with these stories right here.
Just by speaking with 22-year-old Isaiah Lombardo and his mother, Angela, you can immediately tell how well-rounded and responsible a young man he is. He once applied for a job on his own without telling his mother, and ended up working at Stop & Shop for four years. He takes part in advocacy in many areas, including annual disability awareness training for all 4th graders in the Brookline public school system and co-teaching as part of The Arc’s Operation House Call program. This brief glance at Isaiah’s resume shows how truly impressive a young man he is – and knowing that he has Down syndrome makes his achievements all the more impressive.
Isaiah was born two and a half months premature. He has had countless hospital stays and invasive medical procedures over time, which led to him missing a lot of school. As a result, he began to struggle with his identity from a young age, sometimes expressing that he wished he didn’t have to be like this. Yet no matter his struggles or his moments of sadness, Isaiah never let himself get deterred from his goals.
By the time he reached high school, Isaiah truly began to become the person his mother feels he was meant to be. He served as a manager for the high school football team for five years. He also ran on the school track team and received the Frank T. Kelly Adversity Award from the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association. Isaiah also took part in two vocational tracks in high school, one in culinary studies and the other in healthcare.
One achievement in high school that cannot have its importance overstated is Isaiah’s forming true, genuine, lifelong friendships with both girls and boys. He considers one friend in particular, Nicole, to be the sister he never had. Nicole is off at college in Worcester, which makes socializing a bit more difficult. But every week, they have a standing Facetime date during which they catch up and reconnect. Every so often, Nicole comes home for the weekend and the two spend plenty of time together, going out for dinners with other friends.
Making friends doesn’t always come easily, however, especially when Isaiah finds himself confronted with people who assume his incompetence rather than presuming his competence. People have often asked his mother “does he speak?” while he’s beside her, as if he doesn’t even exist. But not to worry – expressing himself is not at all something Isaiah has a problem with. Through his position co-teaching for The Arc’s Operation House Call program, Isaiah has truly found his voice. He began his time co-teaching as a silent observer while his mother spoke, but now, Angela can barely get a word in as he advocates and educates all on his own.
Isaiah is making a name for himself as a public speaker and self-advocate. And if he has anything to say about it (which he does!), that’s exactly how things will continue to be.
Written by Katerina Daley, Development and Digital Media Associate
The Arc of Massachusetts 2018 gala, Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers, will be held on April 25. To learn more, purchase tickets, or become a sponsor, please visit the official gala webpage.