I want to tell you about two incredible women: Amy and Annie.
The July 20 issue of my local paper, the Westminster Window, which unfortunately does not post its stories on-line, had a truly inspiring story written by Krystal Fowler about Amy Garcia a local 20 year old young woman. Like many girls her age, Amy is about to head off to college, on scholarship, having just graduated high school with honors. What is completely unusual about Amy is that she accomplished this with Down Syndrome. While it would be easy to think that simply completing high school, in mainstream classes, would be an accomplishment for this young woman, this is not all. She participated on her swim team for all four years. She also held a job at Adventure Golf and took classes in dance and karate. The article has a quote from Amy "I'm out to prove to people who think that Down Syndrome kids can't do anything. I think I prove them wrong. I want to show them what they can do, to prove to these people that these kids can do these things." If only we all had this attitude.
I met Annie Forts several months ago at a breakfast in her honor called the Breakfast of Champions hosted by the Mile High Down Syndrome Association and the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (see disclosure below). Annie, who also has Down Syndrome, serves as a self-advocate. I have lifted Annie's bio from here: The primary focus of Ann's speeches is to help people understand that there is definitely an "UP" side to life with Down syndrome. She created the concept of "UP" syndrome to redefine, in a positive way, the image of mental disabilities and to focus on the ABILITY portion of the word "disability." Ann has served seven years as a member of the President's Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., called The President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Ann has received numerous regional and national awards for sharing her "UP" syndrome philosophy with her peers, their families, students, teachers, doctors and social workers.
I remember listening to her speech thinking that in part is was your typical leadership or personal development advice. I've unfortunately lost my notes. However, two stories stick in my mind. First, she told a story of how people generally stare at her since she looks different. She related how in one case, she walked up to the person staring at her, introduced herself with a smile, handed over her business card, and sat back down. She does this with everyone; she worked the room and met every single person after her speech. It was pretty incredible. I found myself thinking that as introverted as I am I would find this very difficult. Would I have the gumption to work the same room she just waltzed through? No. The second was a piece of advice. Annie is not a patient person so she realized that she could not wait for or count on others to create opportunities for her. Her advice was don't wait, do it yourself.
What are you waiting for?
Disclosure: I have been employed by the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute since 1995.