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3 years, 2 friends, and 1 Inseparable Bond

by Laura Green, Bridgewater State University Student

Friends Don't Let friends

“I can’t believe they let her be in this class. What if she can’t do it? How is she going to keep up with us? Can she memorize lines? Who’s going to work with her?” These were all thoughts going through my fifteen year old mind in my sophomore year acting class. I know I wasn’t the only one thinking of the several issues that could occur having her in the class.

We were a class of about twelve students, and looking around at each other we were all lost because we didn’t know what to do; we have never worked with a student like her in an acting class, or really any class before this. We all mutually felt there was a major separation between us and her. 

A sixteen year old, four foot nine inch girl had brought joy to all of us and made us learn about aspects of unconditional love and friendship we never even thought about before, and perhaps this is because we never thought we could learn these things from someone that had an extra copy of the twenty-first chromosome. Her name was Jordan, and she had Down syndrome. 

We didn’t always quite understand what she was saying or how to adapt things so she could do it, but we all learned these things together because we wanted her to be as much of a part of the class as the rest of us were-and by the end of the semester she was the center and sunshine of our class, and for a lot of us, the highlight of our entire day. 

Over the next five months, the twelve of us learned about acceptance, patience, and friendship that we had never experienced before in our regular classes. We all laughed with each other, worked together, and were there for one another when we needed it and by the end of October it was easily all of our favorite class-and not because of the theater we were doing. Jordan had a sense of humor and loved to flirt, and never let us forget it. There were two very handsome boys in the class, Brandon and Vinny, who also happened to be the very athletic type that were tough to get through too because of their tough exterior. However, Jordan didn’t care and hugged them in class every day, sat next to them, made them laugh, and within the first month of class Jordan had them wrapped around her finger to the point where people in the class would specifically ask to work with her. Someone we thought was so different from us ended up being just like us, and we were fascinated.

My sophomore year I was diagnosed with depression and it was undoubtedly the most miserable of all four of my high school years, but for an hour or more a day Jordan would make it seemingly disappear. She was having such a positive impact on me I started ditching my friends at lunch to sit with her with the rest of the kids who had special needs. And then, because I thought she was so great I wanted all of my friends to meet her, and I started bringing her to my table and sitting with her. I helped her open her fruit cup and she helped me be happy.

She was the best part of my day, and I was even more excited when I found out she was doing the spring musical and we would get to spend every day after school together. Her mom was there every day as well, and after a few rehearsals I got the courage to go up and say “Hi, my name is Laura. Would it be possible for Jordan and I to ever hang out outside of school?”

GraduationIt’s now three years later, Jordan and I are best friends and have infinite memories together. When Jordan needed surgery her junior year that required her to go to Cincinnati, Ohio and her health insurance wouldn’t cover it because it was outside Massachusetts, I designed t-shirts that said “True Friends Don’t Count Chromosomes” and sold over one hundred.

The day before Jordan left for her surgery I arranged for her to be asked to the junior prom in front of the entire school on the school news station, and WCVB News came to our school and had a story on us. We were recognized at the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Conference. A picture of us is published in the MDSC's educors guide for teachers about inclusion.

We were voted the senior superlative “Attached at the hip” for our class. We did the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Buddy Walk and raised over two thousand dollars. We went to our prom, graduated, and continued to do theater while always being together. Because of Jordan, I started to do volunteer work with kids with disabilities and became the Vice-President of Best Buddies, and was selected to be on the national Best Buddies Young Leaders Council. I was also a teacher’s aide in the special education room my senior year, and it was no surprise to anyone when I decided my major would be Special Education.

Jordan shaped my high school life. She was why I got up in the morning, and whenever I was faced with a challenge I found myself saying “what would Jordan do?”. But, I wasn’t the only one Jordan had this enormous impact on. Our high school drama company fell in love with her. In rehearsals if I wasn’t there to help her, someone else stepped up immediately to make sure she understood what was happening. If she cried during rehearsals for any reason, people rushed to her side to offer a hug and encouragement. When she auditioned for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and performed her monologue, as soon as she was done people sprang to their feet and cheered her on and gave her an instant standing ovation.

She went from being the center and sunshine of the classroom, to being the heart of an entire company. The acting class we were in  and the drama company both brought together people who all had different interests. races, beliefs, and all lead different lives. Jordan managed to bring all these people together just by being herself. 

What Jordan taught a bunch of theater kids and myself is that we can do anything. Nothing ever stopped Jordan from doing what she wanted, and if she failed she would always say School photo“try again”. Nothing ever hindered her, and if something originally didn’t work for her she found a way to make it work for her. She wanted to be a lead in a musical, so she auditioned for it. She wanted to sing a solo at our senior cabaret, so she did. In our yoga class if she couldn’t do a pose, she modified so she could and didn’t complain. When dancing with everyone else on stage, she struggled to get the moves right and keep her rhythm, but laughed her way through it and did her best, and at the end of the day that’s all really anyone can do-try their best.

Jordan brought all different kinds of people together and taught us about friendship and perseverance. She became everyone's friend, she just happened to have Down syndrome. Her courage made us all turn a blind eye to the idea that having an extra chromosome was even a disability at all.

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