Policy & Advocacy

Help Lead NDSC

What leadership opportunities does the NDSC offer for self-advocates?

Self-Advocate Council Meeting Individuals with Down syndrome possess many unique talents and perspectives. It doesn’t make sense as an organization advocating for you to not have you working right by our side.

We need you! We wouldn’t be the organization we are without the integration of individuals with Down syndrome on our board, advocating, planning the annual convention and more.

PRESENT at the NDSC Convention

Each year the NDSC seeks proposals for exciting and entertaining presentations from self-advocates for the Y&A Conference. All submissions are welcome and encouraged! For more information visit Call for Speakers.

JOIN The National Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition(NDAC)

The National Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition (“NDAC”) is a member service of the National Down Syndrome Congress (“NDSC”). NDAC is a grassroots advocacy service that is designed to educate individuals with Down syndrome, their family members and other allies about policy issues and give them the advocacy tools and techniques they need to effectively engage with their legislators to advocate for change.
For more details and how to join go to NDAC.

SERVE on the NDSC Board of Directors

Board Membership Responsibilities and Guidelines

Any member with Down syndrome, 22 years or older, in good standing in the NDSC, is eligible for nomination to the Board of Directors of the National Down Syndrome Congress. Three self-advocates serve on the BOD and each year one self-advocate is elected for a three-year term by his or her peers at the convention’s Y&A Conference.

During the annual Youth & Adults Conference held in conjunction with the NDSC Annual Convention, all self-advocates nominated will be voted upon by the Youth & Adults Conference attendees. The winning candidate’s name (the person with the plurality of the votes) will be submitted to the full membership at the General Membership Meeting as part of the slate of nominees.

All self-advocate nominees are expected to be present at the Youth & Adult Conference held during the Annual Convention. Financial support is available for self-advocate directors to attend the two annual board meetings held each year.

In the event there is a vacancy in one of the three Board seats reserved for a self-advocate, it will be filled by the same process used to fill any other unexpired Board seat, except the person selected must be a self-advocate.

Nominations will open in the spring of 2018 and the deadline to submit nominations is Friday, May 25, 2018.

Terms of Office

Self-advocates serve a term of three years.

Board members responsibilities include:

  • Be a member in good standing of the NDSC.
  • Attend all board meetings (a minimum of 2 meetings per year for the full board meetings).
  • Participate as an active member of NDSC committee(s).
  • Personally assume responsibility for paying all expenses related to board membership (e.g. travel expenses to attend board meetings; incidental telephone and postage expenses; convention registration, etc.). Based upon need, however, it is possible to request financial assistance.

Nomination Process

In the spirit of providing equal opportunity for all nominees, the following processes will be enforced.

Nominees will be required to complete a nomination form that includes acknowledgement and acceptance of all the guidelines of the nomination process and board responsibilities.

Nominees will need to provide a two-minute videotaped speech, which will be played to the teens and adults at the NDSC Youth & Adults Conference. Your speech should tell the audience a little about yourself and why you feel you would make a good board member for the NDSC. Everyone brings unique and special qualities to the board. Your job will be expressing what yours are to the voters. A copy of the speech must be submitted to the Convention Director prior to the convention.

Campaigning will be limited to an area designated by the Convention Director, where nominees can meet and greet attendees, display one poster, and have a flier or card available to give away. Once speeches have begun, no further campaigning will be allowed by friends, family or the nominee. Voting will occur after the completion of all speeches.

The winning nominee will be expected to attend the General Membership Meeting held during the Annual Convention where the slate of all Board of Director Nominees will be approved.

ENGAGE with the Self-Advocate Council(SAC)

The Self-Advocate Council (SAC) was formed in 2006 and is comprised of current and former NDSC board members. All were elected to the NDSC Board of Directors by their peers. Members are active nationally and locally and are eager to work with other self-advocates.

Members of the SAC:

  • Participate in quarterly conference calls
  • Work to expand the Self-Advocate Book Project
  • Provide leadership during the Annual Convention with the Y&A Conference, Friendship Club, and Greeters Program
  • Advise the Youth and Adult Committee
  • Are self-advocate voices on issues of national and local discrimination


MEET the current NDSC SAC members

Pete Swayze Asplundh

Hello, my name is Pete “Swayze” Asplundh and Patrick Swayze is and had been my role model in real life in his lifetime and mine and still is. That’s why I have named myself from after him. I am large for my size unlike other young adults who have Down syndrome. Right now I am 5 feet 10 inches in height, the same height and size as Patrick Swayze’s. I am somewhat muscular, lithe and plus well-coordinated.

Just to tell you a little about it about me is that I live right next door to my parents house and I also order meals from The Fresh Diet company on my laptop and the meals are delivered to my door on a monthly basis. Some days I do go out for lunch or maybe brunch with my parents and other times I order in on Sundays. The guys from Lees Hoagies have a file on me at the their hoagie shop and they deliver on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

I still have a job working for right now, but I may not have another job lined up quite yet. I’m still looking around for that job that may or might have something to do with dance and dancing and that is what I really hope to do is helping people with disabilities to improve and to show them how they can learn to dance and to improve as well.

I also have many interests. I am interested in the entertainment and filmmaking business and I have books on that particular subject matter. My niece made a movie about me in her filmmaking school project class in London. I went to London with my parents for the shoot and we shot on location in various parts of London neighborhoods. Another interest of mine is the different forms of religion such as Zen Buddhism and transcendental meditation and EST. I also am interested in the martial arts. My mother always encouraged me to take dance classes. I started off with ballroom first then in my twenties, I have also studied jazz, tap ballet, and modern dance. In my teens, I participated in Special Olympics in track and field, downhill skiing and basketball.

After watching my sisters compete at horse shows, I became interested in riding horses and took lessons for 10 years. I learned to walk, trot and canter and jumping over poles. I even learned how to groom horses like my sisters did. I also have a fitness trainer that comes to my house every single day on a day-to-day basis.

I think apart of my athletic abilities is due to all the time my mother spent “patterned” me as an infant and toddler. My folks also encouraged me in an interest in participating in local theater productions. I have been in several shows, including,West Side Story, Yeoman of the Guard, Our Town, Night of January 16th, etc. I went to New York to audition for a TV series. I close to it but I didn’t get the role. Oh well those are the breaks.

I have been a member of the NDSC for many years. I have served on NDSC Board more than once over the years. Also, I have done workshops like “Making Hoagies” and even on the subject of dance.

When I turned 40, we had a theme birthday party based on “Bonanza.” My nephew superimposed my face on that of Joe Cartwright on a large poster of the Bonanza characters.

I have a Mac laptop where I can purchase songs from iTunes, which I then use as a disk jockey. After practicing here in Bryn Athyn at a school swim party and for a family reception, I was able to be the disk jockey for several NDSC conventions.

I really appreciate being on the Self-Advocate Council of the NDSC and having the opportunity to be able to help other people.

Carrie Bergeron

Carrie radiates joy and warmth when you meet her. This trait has been evident ever since she was a hypotonic infant with a wobbly head! She lives in upstate New York and currently participates in a NYS self-determination program. She has staff workers who help her with independent living skills 43 hours a week.

She received a two–year degree (obtained in four and a half years) from Herkimer County Community College as a teacher’s assistant in 2003. Carrie volunteers two days a week at the Upstate Cerebral Palsy Center working with toddlers. She also volunteers at the Rome Memorial Hospital one day a week helping out with the Tai Chi program on the geriatric floor.

Physical fitness is maintained by daily visits to the local YMCA where she participates in several dance classes along with regular workouts. Carrie takes two classes per week of Tae kwon Do, where she maintains a black belt status.

She is a former board member of the National Down Syndrome Congress Board of Directors and now serves on the Self-Advocacy Council and the Youth and Adult Committee. She loves to share her experiences as a young adult with Down syndrome and is a member of the local Speaker’s Bureau. Carrie travels both locally and nationally to spread the awareness for people with Down syndrome and other special needs as she presents at schools, churches, conferences, parent support groups and Buddy Walks.

Jennifer Cunningham

Jennifer Cunningham is a 42 year old self advocate from Worthington, Ohio.

Jenny believes that all persons have “Endless Abilities”; we just have to find ways to bring them out. Jenny tried out and made her high school gymnastics team. She now coaches for her Special Olympics team. In 2004, Jenny lived in Vancouver, Canada and appeared in Stephen King’s “Kingdom Hospital”, an ABC TV miniseries. Jenny has spoken at the US Capital in support of the ABLE Act and now serves on the State of Ohio STABLE Advisory Board.

Jenny works for Franklin County, Ohio and lives with her partner Bryan in their own condo. They have been together for 20 years.

Austin Davenport

After attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, Austin Davenport graduated in 1998 from Lake Highlands High School in Richardson ISD Dallas, Texas where he was active in theater, choir, as well as visual arts.

He attended Richland College, also in Dallas, where he continued his study of theater. Austin has performed in over twenty plays in the area. He has spoken encouragement as a self-advocate to many groups around the country and has served on the Boards of the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas. Austin loves his church where he is active with the singles group and sings in the choir. Austin works full time at DocuCorp International as an assistant clerk in Dallas and lives on his own in his duplex which is a block from his church, his bank, Blockbuster, Tom Thumb, several restaurants, and Marble Slab.

Chris Devlin

Chris Devlin was born in New York on February 11, 1967.  He spent his first years attending the Shield of David School in the Bronx.  When he moved to New Jersey, he attended Fairlawn Schools and graduated from Bridgewater High School.  He presently lives in his own apartment, and he works at the ARC.  He has two brothers, Brendan and Colin.  Colin married Annie, and Chris was co-best man. He is an uncle to Kyle and Katie.   His mom, Eileen, lives in Sea Girt. His Dad, John, died in 1999.

Chris enjoys music and videos.  He has an extensive collection.  Presently he is a member of Spotlighters, an acting group that meets each week.  They present a show every year in the Spring.

In 1999 Chris starred in a Hallmark commercial called “Dave’s Place.”  The commercial was seen on national television for five years.

He went to Las Vegas to appear in a film called YONKERS JOE. “A scam artist has his plans suddenly interrupted when he must take over the care of his son who has Down Syndrome.”

Chris also spent two weeks in West Virginia working on a short film by NYU graduate student, Kim Spurlock, Down in Number 5. It won awards for best film and best cast at the NYU Film School. It also won the silver at the Student Academy Awards in LA. The film can be viewed on YouTube.

Chris starred in a film called One Way Road, directed by Romy Heezen at the NY Film Academy.

Chris also worked in a film starring Paz de la Huerta.  The Red Shoes.

In the summer of 2014 Chris was excited to be chosen to appear in HBO’s series The Leftovers.

In January 2015 Chris starred in Gary, a film directed by James Camali from SVA.

Chris loves the time he spends with buddies at National Down Syndrome conferences.  He always plays an active role; in fact, in the past he has been a board member. He is a member of the Self-Advocates Council.

Jessica Green

Hi! My name is Jessica Green. I was born December 14, 1982 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was my parent’s first child. I have a brother Michael, and a sister Casey and a wonderful dog named Sofie.

My family has always supported me and wanted me to have a bright and wonderful life.

I was involved in an Early Intervention program where I live and after that I went to a preschool that allowed me to be included with other kids. I continued, throughout my school years to be in inclusive programs. This took some hard work from my parents because back then inclusion was very new. I was active in my classes and in extracurricular activities. I made many friends and had many challenges and I think it helped me become an independent woman.

Before I knew it I was graduating from high school. I attended a local college called Marion College where I audited classes. I took dance, choir, stage production, nutrition and more. I met other college students and I loved the teachers. I really loved the campus life.

The things I love to do are singing, dancing, acting, public speaking, horseback riding, being with my family, and much more. I actually performed with the Theatre of Inclusion, which gave me a chance to shine. I actually got paid for doing what I love to do.

I now work at Advantage Medical and have been there for about 7 years. I love my job and the people I work with. My bosses, Jeff and Sherri Worrell, treat me like an adult and they respect me as a co-worker. I feel fortunate to be the mail coordinator and other things that they need me to do. I am also a self-advocate for Down Syndrome Indiana. I work there one day a week and I attend board meetings and write articles for my newsletter. We also have meetings and activities for other self-advocates. I take riding lessons, photography class, and voice lessons. I am pretty busy.

One of things I love to do is to try and make a difference for families with young children or young adults who have Down syndrome. I try to be a good Self-Advocate For individuals and give them advice and a positive outlook. I try to help them focus on their Abilities not just their Disability.

Going to the NDSC Conventions is also something that I love to do. I can make friends who understand me and it’s a place where I have a chance to share my hopes and dreams with people who really care and understand. This is where I met my boyfriend a couple of years ago.

I am so proud to be a part of the Self-Advocate Council for NDSC. I will try to do my best to show my appreciation by dedicating my work to the people who had faith in me and voted for me.

John T. Farley

John T. Farley, from Memphis, TN was elected to the NDSC Board on July 21, 2012. He is a 26-year-old self-advocate who graduated from Germantown High School in 2006 and was awarded the Calloway Scholarship for outstanding character and involvement in school sports. The National Football Foundation recognized John T. in 2005 with the Mario Reed Courage and Spirit award.
John T. lived independently while attending TRC Vocational School for one and a half years. He has been a dancer/performer for over 20 years, performing in High School Musical 1 and HSM 2 ‘on stage’ –regional and world premieres.

He continues to train and perform with Company d Dance Troupe and works at Kroger grocery.  Many self-advocates have been in Youth and Adults workshops at NDSC conferences when John T was teaching some of his favorite moves.

Heather Hancock

Heather Hancock lives in Southwest Oklahoma City with her Father Bill, Mother Lisa and Sister Jennifer. Heather graduated from Westmoore High School in May 2005, where she was selected Miss Westmoore High School at her Prom in April. In the fall of 2005 Heather attended the Moore Norman Technology Center on a scholarship she received her senior year of high school. She was accepted to their Business Technology program were she completed the program learning many valuable skills that have help her in her chosen career.

She danced for 13 years. The last two years of her dance education was at Top Hat Talent in Southwest Oklahoma City.  She had the opportunity to compete and perform in dance competitions that won local and national titles.

Heather is a global messenger for Special Olympics Oklahoma where she speaks to audiences to promote awareness about Special Olympics Oklahoma activities, such as volunteering, recruiting new athletes, and procuring donations. Heather has been very involved with Special Olympics for the past 18 years. She participates in a wide variety of sports.  Heather was awarded on April 3, 2010 the Boomer Area Athlete of the year for 2010.

In the Spring of 2009 Heather was chosen along with two other Special Olympic athletes to be featured in a Special Olympics Oklahoma documentary celebrating its 40th anniversary. The documentary aired on the OETA network on October 18, 2009, and has been shown several times since.

Heather has been a Self-Advocate Council board member for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma for the past 4 years.  In February 2009 she travailed with a delegation from the organization to the Affiants in Action Conference in Washington DC.  She was asked to speak at a congressional breakfast where she shared the message of ability, inclusion and full participation in life for people with down syndrome and other disabilities, with senators and congressmen from across our nation.  She also has traveled the past 7 years as a self-advocate to conferences in St. Louis, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, Boston and Sacramento, Orlando, San Antonio and Washington, DC. She has gained knowledge about independence and self-determination along with meeting many friends from across the country.  When she attended her first conference July 2003 in St Louis, Heather met a young man from New Orleans and in August 2007 at the NDSC conference, after four years of a long distance relationship, Heather became engaged in Kansas City to Craig Blackburn.

Heather has had three paying jobs and some volunteer jobs since the age of 17. Her first job was at Panera Bread, then after her education at Moore Norman Technology Center she worked for Homeland grocery stores.  In December, 2008 she was hired as an Administrative Assistant in the Special Education Section of the State Department of Education were she is currently employed.  She has spoken across the state to many schoolteachers and staff at state conferences, school district meetings and State Department of Special Education meetings.

Tracy Hile

Hello, my name is Tracy Hile. I am OLD but I don’t feel or look old (they say). I was born in 1968 in Baltimore, MD. I have lived (besides Maryland), in Colorado, Kansas and Texas, before moving to Arkansas in 2008. I worked as a teacher’s assistant for 19 years in the Houston TX area. I worked in three different public school districts. I loved my job and the students so much. The staff was wonderful to me– I miss my co-workers but we call and email each other often.

It was a big change to move from a huge city to a very small town, but I am enjoying it very much. It is really nice and I am meeting many new friends now. I have a job as a breakfast hostess at the Queen of Diamonds Inn. If that sounds funny to you, it is because the only diamond mine in North America is here in Murfreesboro, AR: Crater of Diamond State Park. My co-workers are wonderful to me, too. The motel is very nice and the breakfast is served in a Victorian-style home. I am living by myself in my own house. It is the house my Dad grew up in, but it has been ‘updated’ and is ‘just precious!’

  • I have my own computer, send emails and check the weather. These are some of my activities: Joined a Bible study, and choir too.
  • Go to baby showers and wedding showers.
  • Got a dog: Charlie– who loves to go for walks.
  • Decorating for Christmas, fall, spring, and all of the patriotic holidays.
  • Pick up my own mail, go to bank, and pay my bills
  • Learning to cook in my crockpot, as well as the microwave.
  • Do my own grocery shopping and cleaning
  • Pick out and buy my own clothes, gifts, household items
  • Enjoy listening to music
  • Doing word search
  • Working out with a DVD, Relaxing in the porch swing, reading a good book!

My NDSC friends and the conventions are what I look forward to each year!

Laurie Hobson

My name is Laurie Hobson and I am from Memphis, Tennessee. I live with My Mom, My Brother and My Grandmother.

I graduated from Houston High in 2006. My senior year, I was a cheerleader. I loved cheer! I took French and Theatre. My favorite subject was P.E. I miss my High School. My last year at High School, I started working at Kroger. I bag groceries and bring carts in from the lot and visit with all my friends. I like it.

Some of my activities are: bowling, dancing, socializing, listening to my CDs and watching my DVDs. I also like basketball. I dance in a dance group called Company D. We practice twice a week. I attend Weight Watchers; it has helped me to lose weight.

I have a boyfriend, and his name is Kenny. I went to my Senior Prom with him. I have served on the Board of the National Down Syndrome Congress. It felt so good to be on the board. I wanted to be on the board because I know about Down syndrome. I love the conventions because they have dances, a banquet and fun stuff to do!

Christi Hockel Davenport

I like to be called Christi Hockel Davenport since Austin and I tied the knot in October, 2009!

I have lived all of my life in Walnut Creek, California, and it’s still my main residence. I love my part-time job a courtesy clerk with Safeway, where I like to talk with the customers. I have a new career too, as a wife – and I love it. My life is split between California and Texas because benefits don’t give people with Down syndrome much freedom.

In California, I care for my own studio apartment, which is attached to my family home. I am known around there as “Auntie Christi” because I love my 25 nieces and nephews. In Texas, I care for my husband, Austin. I love being his wife. I volunteer at a Catholic school helping small children with P.E., computers, and in the cafeteria. I need a job at Southwest because I am always on an airplane!

I graduated from high school with a diploma in 2000. I learned to drive and have a license. I attended junior college, where I took lots of dance and drama classes (along with P.E., Spanish, Music Literature, Sign Language, and Voice & Diction). For two semesters, I was a teacher’s assistant in the beginning drama class. I love to perform and I keep working on my presentations, which now Austin and I often do together.

I have taken piano lessons, singing lessons, and sewing lessons. I know how to cook lots of things. I love to draw and make things with beads. I love to bowl. I watch movies, sports, and old shows. I have hundreds of DVDs in my collection. I volunteer at the medical center in Walnut Creek (for over 800 hours).

I was a Board member of the NDSC from 2003-2006, got to be a keynote speaker at the Sacramento Convention in 2009, and I love being a part of the Self-Advocate Council.

Lee Jones

My name is Lee Jones and I was born in Hong Kong in 1975. When I was 7 months old my parents and I moved to Kansas City. In 1995 I graduated from high school and entered Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. I really enjoyed my years there. I won the Homecoming King election my junior year. This was my most exciting moment at Graceland other than my graduation on Mother’s Day in 2000. I earned a BA in Recreation with a minor in Theatre.

After graduation I took a job in Arkansas. I lived there for three years. I loved the town and being on my own. I made many new friends, was active in my church and joined a community theatre group. The only thing that I wasn’t happy with was the fact that I was not using my college degree.

In 2003, I moved back to the Kansas City area. I am currently employed at Sylvester Powell Community Center. I am part of the Weight Room/Facility staff and once a week I teach “Fitness with Lee”, an exercise class for people with disabilities. I also work at the Kauffman Foundation in the legal department. In 2004 and after taking a course, I became a certified personal trainer and now enjoy helping others with their fitness.

Living in my own apartment since graduating from college has increased my independence and I like making my own decisions. Since giving a keynote address at the NDSC convention in 2003, I’ve have been invited to speak at many local, state and national conferences. Traveling on my own to different cities is fun and I’ve met some great people.

I enjoy working on the computer, reading, playing golf, watching WWE, visiting with friends, traveling, scuba diving and watching TV. One of my most enjoyable volunteer activities was serving on the board of the National Down Syndrome Congress and now being active on the Self-Advocate Council.

Meredith Martin

I am Meredith Martin, a self-advocate from the small Northeast Nebraska community of Neligh I attended elementary and high school here and graduated with the Class of 2000. After graduation, as my friends were heading off to college, I knew I wanted to go somewhere, too. So, I left my parents home and moved in to my own apartment. Although I did not have a roommate or even a pet, I did enjoy my new feeling of independence (once my cable TV was connected).

When I was in second grade I decided that I wanted to become a nurse. Although I have not met that dream yet, I am working at our hospital as an office aid. Some days I do get to help the nurses out on the floor or assist in cardiac rehab. Those are my best days at work. I also work two other part time jobs. One is at our grocery store and the other is at an assisted living facility. I am happiest when I am busy and out and about in the community.

I have not given up on my dream to be a nurse.
One goal that I have had since I was about four was to get a driver’s license. Once I moved into my apartment, I hated to have to keep calling my parents for rides to work, so I hired a driving instructor. I soon had my driver’s license and a whole new feeling of independence!

I am active in my church and community. I enjoy kickboxing, Pilates and I walk and ride my bike a lot. I am always ready for a shopping trip or a chance to do lunch with friends. Dancing is a passion, so NDSC conventions are a real treat since there are no discos in my town. I love to fish and spend time boating with my family. One of the things that has shocked my mom the most is how I have started to enjoy cooking and trying new recipes since leaving home. I do invite my parents over often for an evening meal.

I have so enjoyed attending the NDSC conventions through the years. I have met so many wonderful people who have inspired me to work even harder, to continue to dream and set new goals. At the 2006 convention I was elected to the NDSC Board as a self-advocate. That was an exciting moment. I am enjoying having an active part with this fine group of people. I feel we have a real message to share and I will work to be a positive force in getting out the encouraging news that we have about Down syndrome.

My S.T.A.R. philosophy is one that has served me pretty well so far: S–Surround yourself with positive supportive people; T–Teach others about your disability (or abilities); A–Always advocate for yourself and others; R–Reach for your North Star!

Patricia Moody

Patricia Moody lives in Vero Beach, Florida. She led the way for inclusion during her high school years and graduated from Sebastian River High School. After graduation Patricia was employed with full benefits as a classroom aide for the School District of Indian River County, working with children with disabilities. She dearly loves children and they love her.

She was awarded the National Down Syndrome Society’s post-secondary scholarship to Indian River Community College and completed courses in American Sign Language I and II, making A’s in both.

The beauty of sign language captured Patricia’s heart as a teenager and even then she knew she wanted to pursue a career in sign language. Today Patricia is fluent in American Sign Language and teaches classes at Sun-Up Center for Developmental Disabilities, the Abilities Resource Center (ARC), Indian River Public Library, Make Your Mark Learning Center and Sebastian River High School.

Each summer she leads 100 of her peers of the National Down Syndrome Congress in a fun signing activity set to music. She also led a large group from the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida and taught them songs and activities in sign.
Patricia has spoken at state conferences, educator meetings and parent groups. She was keynote speaker for the Down Syndrome groups of Kansas City and Orlando. She was the keynote speaker for her church’s senior group.

Patricia received the coveted “Voices Award” from the National Down Syndrome Society at the Copacabana in New York City. She spoke to 600 people and told them about her life and sang/signed “God Bless the USA.”

Patricia was elected by her peers to be on the board of the National Down Syndrome Congress. In addition, she was elected on the board of the local Indian River County Abilities Resource Center.

Music has always been important in Patricia’s life, and she has combined singing with signing and has performed the National Anthem for several Special Olympics Florida state competitions. She sang and signed for the crowning of Miss Hibiscus and for the American Cancer Society Luminary ceremony. She has sung/signed at July 4th and Christmas concerts for the Christian ministry called Rock the Silence. She incorporates songs in her ASL lessons when she teaches, as this is a particularly effective way for students to learn the subject.

Patricia is valued by peers and typical persons alike for her leadership ability and her inspirational presentation skills. She has been recommended to others as a speaker and sign language teacher. She has a positive approach to life and expresses herself in a happy, loving manner, which is a wonder way to advocate for respect to herself and others who have disabilities.

Kristin Nichols

Hi. I’m Kristin Nichols. I was born in Grand Junction, Colorado, on June 7, 1970. I moved to Oregon with my parents in 2007. The Pacific Ocean is about two blocks away. I can easily walk there. I love to kayak and take boat rides on a lake near to where I live.

I live a very active life. I volunteer at the library one day a week for two hours. I love to travel and learn about other cultures. I have been to England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, France, and Switzerland. I snorkeled in the Caribbean, kayaked down a jungle river in Belize, swam with dolphins in Roatan, Honduras, and with stingrays in Grand Cayman. I had my nose pecked by a toucan in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and climbed around Machu Picchu in Peru.

My passions are music, dancing, movies, arts and crafts, and reading. I love to dance to music, listen to music, sing along to it, and learn about musicians. I have a large collection of movies and music. I also love to play music on the piano and banjo. During my free time I make latch hook pillows and rugs, use beads to make jewelry, make mosaic art projects, and do acrylic paintings.

I love being a public speaker and talk to groups about what it is like to have a disability and about how to be independent. I have also served on boards of directors for national, state, and local organizations. I really love my life.

Tony Piontek

Hi, my name is Tony Piontek. I was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico on January 16, 1974 but, my family relocated to New Iberia, Louisiana and when I was 7 years old and I now live with my parents there and I’m a Cajun’. We are a big family. I have four older brothers and two older sisters. Along with my parents, they have always been my models, teachers and supporters.

My high school curriculum was a Combination Student, Regular/Special Ed . I was a peer tutor and active in the Library Club. I graduated from New Iberia Senior High in 1994. Our 20th Reunion will be 2014.

I have worked at our Main Library, fine restaurants and in catering. I now have worked at Lowe’s for Lowe’s Home Improvement for over a year. It will make me two year on February 2, 2013, My job is in Customer Service, Safety, and Returns. I’m in training now and working on a level II Paint test right now.

Scouting is a major part of my life. I am an Eagle Scout and continue to help a Troop as their Assistant Scoutmaster. I still strive to be an example and to inspire the young boys to live the Scout values. I teach at the University of Scouting and recently helped develop a program for adults wanting to charter troops for boys with special needs. To solve any communication problems, I took sing language classes and earned my Interpreter Strip at the Diocese Deaf Action Center.

Every year I train and compete in Special Olympics Aquatics even at International Games. This will be my 23rd year and I’m excited about it, as always. My hope now is to renew my Athlete as Officials requirements as a Stroke & Turn and Timer or to compete either way is GREAT for me. Who knows this could be swimming again or maybe tennis or cycling? Preparing for the 2014 National Games held in New Jersey. “Pray and WISH me the best.”

I often speak to groups about perseverance and reaching goals. I really hope my message helps others to follow their dreams.
I am on the Advisory Board for the Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana as their self-advocate. For their special events. I’ve been everything from Santa Claus to photographer to being on T.V. promoting fundraisers. As a new NDSC Board member, I’ve ben thinking of ways to highlight Down syndrome awareness on a National level and would like to research what it would take to have a Down syndrome awareness U.S. Postal Stamp. I’ll keep you “posted.”

Although I have a big family, my six siblings live away and I still enjoy being home with my parents. This is “grand central station,” you know! I plan on living on my own someday. They always seem to live in exciting places, so I’ve been able to travel with family to Italy, France, Corsica, Poland, Germany, Austria, Mexico and many other cities in the U.S. over the years.

Lastly, is this. I keep myself in my free time and these are the things I do.

Catholic activities: Youth ministry, adult retreats, alter serving, school parade mascot (I’m a manda), flower bed ministry.
Community Volunteering: St.Francis Diner, Trash Bash, hurricane relief, public speaking to schools and civic organizations.
Special Olympics:Competitive swimming, (attended two International Games 1995 new Haven, CT as Stroke&Turn and Timer Judge, 1999 Raleigh Durham, NC as an official athlete swimmer), cyclist, athlete as Official and Global Messenger ONLY for our State of Louisiana to attend the World Summer Games.
Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana: Local self-advocate, advisory board, past Acadiana Board of Directors, SAC member, Self-Advocate Leadership Council, International Coalition For Life, (IDSC) self-advocate interpreter and to communicate with people who are hearing impaired to give them a voice.

Catholic Committee on Scouting Religious Awards received: 2011 William J McGoffen Award (received on October 12, 2011), 2010 St. George Award 2009 Bronze Pelican Award, 2008 Scouting Scroll of honor

Melissa Silverman

Hi! My name is Melissa Silverman and I live in Owings Mills, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore.
I graduated from high school in June 2001 with a full academic diploma from the State of Maryland. I attended 2 years at the Community College of Baltimore County where I earned a 90-hour child care certification. I am a teacher’s assistant in a pre-school where I work with 3 and 4 year old children.

I am a member of the Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group and serve on the board of directors. CDSPG has many activities for its members, but my favorite is the book club for adults with DS.

I am a member of a social group for adults with disabilities called GILD. We have life skills and social skills class throughout the year; and we plan social events for the weekends.

I enjoy speaking to various groups such as parents, teachers, future teachers, graduate and high school students and religious groups about Down syndrome. My speeches always include what terrific possibilities there are for people with Down syndrome; and I use myself as a positive example. In addition to this, I always make magic a part of my presentation because my dad and I perform professionally all over the country.

My hobbies include listening to country music, doing magic, swimming, traveling, and going to the theatre. I have a very large collection of Hard Rock Cafe signature guitar pins from all over the world!

Mary Warm

My name is Mary Warm. I am 27 years old. I got elected to be on the NDSC board in June 2018 in Dallas, Texas. I live in Kansas City, Missouri. I am the youngest in my family. I have an older sister named Anna. I also have my parents David and Julie. I am really close to my grandma. I am a young lady who lives independently. I work at a child care center called Berkley Child and Family Development Center. At Berkley, my role is a teacher assistant for pre-kindergarten. I am a part time assistant teacher. What I do as a teacher, I play and teach the children, assist teachers, and I work at the front desk. I work part time because I go Penn Valley Community College. Penn Valley Community College is where I am taking classes for my associate degree for early childhood. I am graduating at Penn Valley in May. After I graduate, I will attend another college called University Missouri Kansas City. At this college I am working on my bachelor degree in early education. I also have a boyfriend name Doug Penning. I meant Doug at the NDSC Convention in Dallas Texas. At the conference, he asked me to the dance. After the conference, we have been contacting each other and now he is my boyfriend. I am also a people person who likes to talk a lot. I love everyone and life!

Jeremy Williams

My name is Jeremy Williams and I live in N. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I grew up in Raleigh, N.C. and lived there for 23 years before moving here. I live with my Mom now as my Dad passed away. Before that I lived in our beach house for 5 years by myself. I like living with my Mom and we travel a lot together.

After I graduated from High School I worked for Manpower and did many kinds of office work, like mail sorting and time slips. Then when we moved I needed to get to work by myself on my bike so I started working at Kroger Grocery Store. I am a customer service clerk and I enjoy many friends at work and with our customers.

I have been a Global Messenger with the Special Olympics and did a different sport each season. In 1995, I went to the World Games in Gymnastics. Now I like to workout on my own in our Aquatic and Fitness Center. I belong to the Civitan Club, and am a 4th degree Knight of Columbus. I am on our Relay team for fighting Cancer and help to raise money.

I have traveled to New York, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Norway, Estonia, Poland and Hawaii. I especially have enjoyed being a part of the Self-Advocates Council and being on the board of directors with the National Down Syndrome Congress. The conferences are a lot of fun and I like meeting my friends there.