Western North Carolina Woman

nicole's dream
by nicole rotundo and her dad steve

This is Nicole’s story. She shares her dreams, her goals, and her unconditional love without letting her disability be a barrier to living a full life. We sat down over a period of a few days and talked about her life. One of the things she said was that she was glad she had Down Syndrome. When I asked why, she said because she could tell people what it’s like to have Down Syndrome, and that she could help other people with disabilities to advocate for themselves.

Nicole, what are some of your dreams?
Its my dream to become famous some day because I dream about people who are famous, and I want to be like them. I’ve met Nick Carter, Aaron Carter, Lindsey Lohan, Chris Burke, and Angela Freeman—she was Chris Burke’s girlfriend on the television program “Life Goes On".

It’s amazing meeting them. The things they do with their lives is really great. I got to talk with them about everyday things, it was like hanging out with good friends. I met Aaron and Nick Carter when I went on a cruise for my 18th birthday that they were on. Nick Carter watched me play basketball, and told me Happy Birthday.

Lindsey Lohan and I got to hang out a little, since she was on the cruise too. I asked her how she liked doing the movie “Parent Trap”, and she told me she had fun.

One of my dreams is to be more independent, and live on my own in a house with a friend. I want to have my own studio where I can sing and make my own clothes that I design. I want to have a kitchen where I can cook good meals, and have my friends and family over to eat good meals with me. I like to write in my journal, and I like to write songs. Some of the things I write about come from inside my heart, and my mind. I write about love and happiness, because I’m happy most of the time. I also like to write poems.
Some day I want to have a boyfriend. I’ve met a few guys I like, but not really as boyfriends. There was one boy I liked as a boyfriend, but that didn’t work out because he had to move on. I am still looking, though, and I hope to find one soon because I want someone to go out with and do fun things. I’m romantic that way.

What other kind of things do you like to do?
I like doing things just like any other person my age. Some of my favorite things to do are horseback riding, play basketball, swimming, bowling, roller skating, dancing, party, football, jet skiing, acting in plays and watching cute boys.

It’s fun to talk with people I can communicate my goals to, and tell them about some of the things I have done in my life. I have had a chance to do that when I talk with students and professionals at workshops and conferences. I have opportunities to be on panels with other people with disabilities and answer the audience's questions about what it’s like growing up with Down Syndrome. One of the questions that I get asked the most is, “What is your dream?” My answer is that I want to be famous some day, because I can help people more if I’m famous.

What do you tell people who have a disability?Something I like to tell people with disabilities that I meet is that they are special, and I love them for who they are. I tell them that they should have a dream, and they should feel good about themselves because they can accept the challenge of their disability. When they accept the challenge they can start being advocates for themselves.

They can learn from their challenges, and help other people with disabilities learn about what they know. It’s easy having Down Syndrome because I feel loved.

I have a family that loves me very much, and is very supportive of me and my dreams; which makes everything so much easier for me. My friends are very supportive too. Some of my girlfriends and I go to movies together, or out to eat for “girls night”. Go Cheetah Girls!

“Nicole is amazing. I have always admired her, not just because she is my sister, but because she decides she wants to do something in her life then does it. She doesn’t let her disability get in the way of her dreams. I’ve learned a lot from her.” (Ryan, Nicole’s brother)

What about school?
I graduated from High School, then went to A.B.Tech for a little while. Now I want to go back to school to learn how to design clothes and make them. I also want take acting and cooking classes.

I go to Open Heart, a creative art center for people with disabilities, three days a week. There we learn painting. writing, how to work with clay, drama, music, and dancing. I like being there because it gives me time to be with my friends, who are like family to me; and the teachers are so awesome. We make art to give as gift to friends and family, but we also make art to sell. We have our own booth at Woolworth’s Walk in Asheville. It’s great making money when I sell my art.

“Nicole has been attending Open Heart, formerly Creative Clay, since its beginning. She’s like family to us. Nicole is a good role model for the other participants in the program because of her enthusiasm for her work. She also helps her peers by encouraging them in their work.”
Sonia, Program Director, Open Heart

What else do you do with your time, Nicole?
I have been looking for work for a while now, and going on job interviews at different places. I’ve worked as a hostess in two restaurants. I greeted people at the door, and took them to their table; and I also answered the phone when people called to ask questions. I loved my jobs, but I got tired of standing all of the time. Some day I would like to learn to make clothes and sell them. For now, I just want to work so I have my own money. That way I will be more independent.

Every year I get to go to the National Down Syndrome Conference. This year, it was in Anaheim, California. Next year, the conference is going to be in Atlanta. When I am at the conference, I get to meet other people with Down Syndrome, people of all ages. We go to workshops together where we learn sign language, and sing songs; or learn how to do self defense. The best part of the conference is the big dance with the D.J. The ballroom is full of people having a great time, including parents, brothers and sisters.

My brother, Ryan, was one of the coordinators of the Sibling Conference, which has workshops for all of the brothers and sisters of people with Down Syndrome. I’m really glad I have my brother in my life, because he is very supportive of me and my dreams, and he is so very special to me. We do a lot together. I like playing football and basketball with him, and hanging out with him when our friends are with us. We have always been close. He just went off to college this year, so I miss him a lot. It’s great when he comes home to visit.

Something else I like to do is play basketball. Every year I represent Buncombe County on the Special Olympic basketball team, and travel to Raleigh or Greenville, NC to compete against other teams. This year my team won 2nd Place.

Nicole, what do want people to know about you?
That I want to be independent. I want to live on my own with a roommate in a house. I want to work and earn money, and follow my dreams. I also want to help people with disabilities follow their dreams, and teach people what it’s like to have Down Syndrome.


My name is Nicole. I am a young woman (21) with Down Syndrome who is looking for someone to live with in an apartment or house. It’s time for me to start learning to live more on my own, away from my family, as much as possible. My family is important to me, and they are very supportive, but I want to be more independent. I have plans for my future. I am very active, creative, like to dance, workout, sing, and hang out at the Mall or see a movie. 

I can live in a home with animals, but I’d rather not be in a home with someone who smokes or has young children. Being in the Asheville City limits would be great too, in case I need to get on a bus to go to work. 
If you have experience with living or working with adults with disabilities, or would like to give it a try, please call Roxann at 645-3546 or e-mail slrdad@yahoo.com for more information. She can explain more, and answer your questions. 

I look forward to meeting my new housemate. 


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