The smiling face of Grace Strobel recently brightened Rockwood Valley’s library, where she met with sixth-grade students to deliver a message about Down Syndrome awareness.
Strobel, who has Down Syndrome, chose to make her public speaking debut at her alma mater.
“I want to teach people about what it’s like to have Down Syndrome,” said Strobel. “I want them to not be afraid of me, or anyone else who looks different.”
Students volunteered to be a part of Strobel’s demonstrations of struggles she faces daily.
“They were incredible volunteers,” said Principal Dr. Karen Hedrick. “When she asked the kids to think and then share about a time when they have felt lonely, left out, or thought of as incapable, they genuinely listened to one another. Kids who have been misunderstood by others had a forum to help others understand how they have felt.”
Strobel’s parents accompanied their daughter during the presentation.
“It’s a message of hope,” said Strobel’s mother, Linda. “Rockwood schools are amazing when it comes to talking about differences.”
When asked how Down Syndrome impacted her in middle school, Strobel said, “Having conversations. Expressing myself. I love to have friends. I love to be around people and be included. It was hard for me to join conversations and answer questions. It was really frustrating for me. I wanted to do it so much, but I just couldn’t keep up.”
At the end of the presentation, Strobel posed two questions for the audience: What could you do to help someone feel included today? How might you think differently about the way you perceive others?
“Rockwood Valley Middle helped me believe in myself,” said Strobel. “I want to help other students have that.”