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Colorado high school senior with Down syndrome makes history as commencement speaker

by | Jun 3, 2024

By Leslie Wolfgang

Peer support and a local community’s embrace and acceptance enabled Jillian Ball to graduate high school and eloquently deliver this year’s commencement address to an audience of 500, including her classmates and their guests. Ball, a high school senior in Broomfield, Colorado, was granted the honor after a selection process including a “tryout” in April.

Her achievement was especially moving to the listeners and to Ball’s family, because she was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth.

According to Ball’s mother, Alexis, “there was a lot of fear” when her daughter was initially diagnosed because they were uncertain “what her journey was going to be like.” What the family came to realize was that “her journey is not that different than everyone else’s.”

In fact, Ball’s schedule rivals that of many high school students and involves violin lessons, Girl Scouts awards and achievements, sports, and musical theater. Her message of gratitude resonates this graduation season; high school seniors across the country started their freshman year with masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

True to her sincere and outgoing nature, Ball’s speech was sprinkled with affirmations, humor, and an uplifting message. After rehearsing the speech almost 50 times, her hard efforts paid off. Many in the crowd were impressed, and she received a standing ovation at the end of her presentation. She is an inspiration not only to her community, but also to other families who have a child diagnosed with Down syndrome.

According to a recent review of available literature, between 67% to 85% of individuals diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb in America are aborted. But, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, people with Down syndrome “attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.”

A prenatal diagnosis should not be a death sentence. Support for parents by local communities, schools and the media are an important step to welcoming children diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The tears of joy expressed at Jillian Ball’s high school in response to her beautiful speech and the mutual admiration between her and her community make it clear that more of our neighbors with Down syndrome should be welcomed in life and society.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Down Syndrome