March 21 was World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD 2018). When I was 13, Armen, the son of my dad’s first cousin, was welcomed into our extended family. He had Down syndrome, and at some family gatherings, I was assigned to watch him as the adults socialized. Although Armen’s family moved to California and I saw them infrequently after high school, he had a lasting impact on my life.
In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, I’d like to share two wonderful presentations. The first comes from The Arc of Massachusetts board member (and PwC tax partner) Scott Borchardt. He recently wrote a blog on inclusion through work and the experiences of his daughter Noelle, an engaging 21-year-old:
If you are not present in the community, are you really part of the community? Too often individuals with disabilities lack employment opportunities in their local communities. The benefits of working near home are obvious – reduced commuting times, familiar settings, and, most importantly, the opportunity to be seen. Being seen allows one to experience the benefits of the community and interact with neighbors, friends, teachers, and family. Noelle loves being seen! Seeing acquaintances at local stores, restaurants, and other community settings can be the highlight of her day.
After reading Scott’s full blog, you should also check out Jon Derr’s video postcard in honor of WDSD 2018. Jon is the son of Northeast Arc CEO Jo Ann Simons and Chet Derr. The video postcard intersperses Jon’s experiences with inspirational quotes. One of my favorites comes from Albert Einstein: “I’m thankful for all those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I did it myself.”
Noelle and Jon, as well as their parents, serve as inspiring teachers to us all.
Leo V. Sarkissian