Well, it’s happened again. I blinked and you graduated from another level of your education, closing your chapter on middle school. It seems like just yesterday I wrote to you about your elementary school experience, but now I’m reflecting back on the three years you spent at middle school.
While you were the student, your dad and I did our fair share of learning and work to help us all get through it. You had terrific teachers and supporters, but the road was still bumpy as we continued to show our community that inclusive education is your right, even when that meant blazing a new trail through the sometimes treacherous path of middle school. But as always, you were a total rock star.
Middle school tends to get a bad rap, but you handled it well and your love of school continued to grow. Eighth grade was by far your best year and it may be difficult to top as you move on to high school. Even though I was with you every step of the way (maybe more like skipping a bit ahead to remove any unforeseen barriers), I am still in awe of everything you accomplished.
You were a Student Council representative, a member of the basketball team (with eight points on the season!), a sprinter on the track and field team, and an award-winning featured reporter for Eagle News, the student-led daily news broadcast. You had an amazing trip to Washington, D.C. with your peers, and you continued to perform in the Ensemble Company at dance and volunteer at church. With every game you played in, lunch report you giggled through, and race you ran, you were teaching those in our community that you are able, and you are just another teenage kid who wants to be involved and included.
We made it look easy, Alex, but the truth is that advocacy is difficult work. You are learning to advocate for yourself, and I honestly can’t wait to have you join your dad and I at the table as we continue to press on for what we believe is the best vision for your future. I know your time in high school will present more challenges and more opportunities for us to learn how to better advocate for you (and for your peers with Down syndrome), and I promise to not give up. I’ll probably want to, but I’ll get over it and fight on. I always laugh a bit to myself when someone tells me that you’re stubborn because of your Down syndrome; clearly, they don’t realize how stubborn your old mom is, too!
Until you step through the doors of the high school in a few short weeks, let’s just sit back and marvel at your time in middle school. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Al, but truthfully, no one is prouder of you than your family. Congratulations, Mr. Honor Roll Student and All-Around Rock Star Middle Schooler. Hold on tight; high school graduation will be here before we know it!
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Author: Jen Franklin Kearns