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Down syndrome student focuses on her abilities as she transitions to college
SEATTLE — Devon Adelman fell in love with the ocean when she was 2 years old.
“We actually grew up on a beach,” Devon said, describing her childhood years in Florida. “I would just go into the ocean, just jump in.”
She started out with an adoration for dolphins. Now she is 18 and currently captivated by the octopus, which she likes for its “alienlike” features.
Devon has spent her summer volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium after being the only senior with Down syndrome at Nathan Hale High School last year. It makes sense she will study marine biology at Highline College in Des Moines this fall.
But before she starts, she and her mother will head to the White House for Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher: Beating the Odds” summit on July 23. She’ll be one of two students representing the Global Down Syndrome Foundation at the event.
Down syndrome, which causes delay in speech and learning, impacts about 1 in every 691 live births, according to a 2011 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Devon’s journey toward a college transition program was one that required correcting preconceived notions about the disorder. To her and her family, the White House summit is another chance to share what people with Down syndrome can accomplish if given the chance.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity, and it’s great that the White House is considering this part in their whole diversity lineup,” said Sue Adelman, Devon’s mother. “I think it just shows great things for the future.”
The Beating the Odds event is part of Obama’s initiative to have all students continue their education past high school. About 150 students — who, like Devon, overcame certain struggles to reach college — were selected nationwide to attend.
The students will share their particular stories with other guests and hear from speakers who attended last year. Of course, a visit from the first lady also is expected.
“Well, I know Michelle Obama,” Devon said, smiling.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation, based in Denver, was established in 2008 and participates in a variety of advocacy events. David Charmatz, senior vice president for the foundation, said he met with Devon at the Annual National Down Syndrome Congress convention in Phoenix in June.
“She’s definitely a role model for the community,” Charmatz said.
This isn’t Devon’s first advocacy trip to Washington, D.C.
She and her parents participated in the Buddy Walk on Washington in April, speaking with legislators about education opportunities and research funding for those with Down syndrome. She also gave a keynote speech at the United Nations in New York City on March 20, the same weekend of World Down Syndrome Day. (…)