Blacks with Down Syndrome Held Fourth Back to School Picnic
By CELESTE M. HART
The African-American Down Syndrome Association, under the umbrella of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte (DSAGC), held its 2018 Back to School Picnic at Latta Park, Saturday, August 25, for a delighted group of 70 including students, parents and advocates. Hosts Sybil Gaines and Jeannette Little served healthy foods, provided a face painter and incredible creations by Linda’s Balloons.
Shanika Bonipart, 27, an extra special student, recently graduated from South Carolina Winthrop University’s Think College program. Its mission provides an inclusive postsecondary education experience to students with intellectual disabilities to prepare them for competitive employment and active participation in local communities with as much independence as possible. Think College, a two-year program for ages 18 to 25 with a maximum acceptance of eight students per year, at a cost of $7,500 per semester, not including housing. Application deadline for the fall semester is January 1.
“But God; thanking Him for waking me up this morning and for my journey. Thanks to my mom for signing me up. And I call it up syndrome because there is nothing down about it. I am also buying myself a home,” said Bonipart.
Angela Streater, Shanika’s mother and advocate, said Think College helped develop social skills, become more independent, improved speech and vocabulary.
“Shanika always asked if she could go to college because she saw her cousins go. I would never say; no you cannot. We found this program at a DSAGC event, the rest is history. I was not worried, the peer mentors made me feel comfortable. Shanika has worked for the last six years and she was just approved for a home loan. We are so ecstatic,” said Streater.
Janette Kinard, president Champion House of Care, and Mr. Corey, support specialist, shared information about adult services for the intellectually and developmental disabled, ages 13 and older, provided through the non-profit located at 5108 Regan Drive. The programs include; enrichment for those transitioned out of high school, safety skills, after school sessions and Summer Camp Champion where campers horseback ride, swim, enjoy music therapy and community activities.
“We support our “Champions” to accomplish life and vocational skills, connect with peers and get involved with their community. Our team is dedicated to providing quality care through choice programs that are person-centered and ability driven,” said Kinard.
The DSAGC, a non-profit family support organization provides resources and activities to enhance the quality of life for persons with Down syndrome.