by nicole rotundo and her dad steve
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.