On World Down Syndrome Day, Speaking Out on How Bullying Hurts and Kills Dreams

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A long time ago when I was very little, I dreamed about being on stage. Some people told me I would never be able to do it, so I only paid attention to those who told me that I could.

Turns out following this one dream led me to discover even more dreams.

I joined a dance class with "typical kids" just before my third birthday and I had my first recital when I was four years-old. And when I heard people laughing and clapping I knew this was good for me! When the whole dance class came back to the stage and sat down, I was the only one to stand up and wave and blow kisses to the crowd.

That's when I got my first standing ovation! I LOVED it!

Well, I kept on dreaming big, which led me to try out for a part on a movie when I was 16.
I got that part and starred in a movie called Mr. Blue Sky! I loved being on the set, being
with other actors and being in front of a camera. I learned so much about acting and about
being a part of a team. I also learned that being an actor isn't just fun and games...it is
very hard work and sometimes very long hours. In one of the scenes I had to wear flannel
pajamas for hours when it was 90 degrees in August. Now that was hard!

But, I was in heaven! I just knew this was the job for me!

Then, one day, I got a phone call about a part on a new show called "Glee" for a girl with
Down syndrome to play the part of a cheerleader. I had always wanted to be a cheerleader,
and even though I tried out for the squad in high school and didn't make the cut, I knew I
wanted this job. I knew I had to work really hard to do a great job.

The casting director Robert Ulrich told us that the producers wanted someone who was cute, witty and also a little bit spunky. I also knew it had to be a girl with a dream.

It's been three seasons since my dream became a reality and I still love being on the show with the other cast members and the great crew, and I still love acting! But like the dreams that led up to realizing this big one, I keep finding new ones.

I have been all around the country speaking out for the anti-bullying campaign that was started with Ability Path.Org. And I am now working with "Defeat the Label" to continue
the fight against bullying. This lets other people hear how bullying hurts and kills dreams.

I've spoken in front of members of the U.S. Congress about a new dream of living in communities where everybody is welcome and everyone can live and go to school and work
without facing the fear of bullies.

I am excited to be on a campaign with Jane Lynch from Glee. We have done a public service announcement that encourages people to end the use of the "R" word. I want to live in a world where people care about other people and try hard not to hurt others with words or actions!

I am on the International Board of Best Buddies, and I am also working with Special Olympics, and with The Arc to help people with disabilities become more independent and more included in their communities.

And the dreams continue...

I was recently appointed by President Obama to the President's Committee for People with
Intellectual Disabilities. I am so excited that the President trusts me to advise him on things
that are important to people with disabilities!

I'm even working on smaller dreams that mean so much. I'm asking anyone and everyone
to help me with my CrowdRise campaign to help my old school -- The Carolyn E. Wylie Center -- raise money to buy 23 iPads for their program for kids with Autism. Many of these kids thrive because of this school where I learned I COULD, when others told my mom and me that I wouldn't or couldn't! Share this with everyone you know! And donate, please!

I am still going to school to learn more about life, about living more independently, about making good decisions, and most importantly... TO NEVER EVER GIVE UP MY DREAMS!