First Lady Celebrates Global Self-Advocates in DC

College-bound Devon Adelman and Megan Bomgaars represent Global at First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2015 “Beating the Odds” summit at the White House. The event is part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher Campaign, which celebrates students who have overcome the “odds” to attend college.

Newsletter Devon and Megan
Devon Adelman and Megan Bomgaars in DC

When the Global Down Syndrome Foundation was invited to participate in the First Lady’s “Beating the Odds” summit, it didn’t have to look far to find two inspirational young women to represent the Foundation. Devon Adelman and Megan Bomgaars, two of only 150 students selected nationwide to attend the event, have Down syndrome and managed to “beat the odds” by attending college to pursue their career goals and to show the world people who are differently-abled can obtain a post-secondary education.

“The Global Down Syndrome Foundation was honored to be a part of the First Lady’s ‘Beating the Odds’ summit. Megan and Devon are two extraordinary young women who exemplify the unlimited possibilities for individuals with Down syndrome,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, GLOBAL’s President & CEO. “Their personal success, self-advocacy work, and desire to further their education shows how people with Down syndrome are ‘reaching higher’ to lead their very best lives.”

Devon at the White House
Devon Adelman at the White House

Devon Adelman, an 18-year-old from Seattle, has Down syndrome, but that hasn’t prevented her from setting high goals and achieving them. While in high school, Adelman gave a keynote speech at the United Nations in New York City, worked with the Special Olympics and volunteered at the Seattle Aquarium. This fall she’ll be studying marine biology at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington.

“My favorite part was going in the White House, seeing Michelle Obama and then the unexpected visit from President Obama! It was amazing and beautiful,” said Devon. “My second favorite was talking with the cute boys in the entry hall…”

“I have to admit, I never expected to be invited to the White House in my life. So to go with Devon and represent the Global Down Syndrome Foundation was truly outstanding. I hope this event can serve as a wake up call to the disability community – to have high expectations, and to the education institutions – to include this amazing group of individuals,” stated Devon’s mom, Sue Adelman.

Megan at the White House
Megan Bomgaars at the White House

Megan Bomgaars, a 22-year-old from Evergreen, Colorado, lives by the motto “Don’t Limit Me!” In 2013 her video telling peers and educators “Don’t Limit Me!” became a YouTube hit with over 300,000 views. Bomgaars has started her own business, Megology, selling her own line of handmade products to help pay her college tuition. Bomgaars was the keynote speaker at this year’s National Down Syndrome Congress Annual Convention in Arizona. This fall she’ll study film at the University of Colorado.

“I was surprised and shocked to be in the White House in person for the Beating the Odds summit. It was cool to sit in the front row and see Mrs. Obama and Terence Jenkins from E! TV News,” said Megan. “I felt happy to represent people with Down syndrome who beat the odds.”

Kris Bomgaars, Megan’s mom shared, “I felt a sense of overwhelming pride that my daughter was representing people with Down syndrome and that the event encourages post-secondary education. Everyone at the White House graciously received Megan and Devon. I hope it’s the first of many events that will include people with differently-abled.”

Beating the Odds Summit
E! News co-anchor Terrence Jenkins, First Lady Michelle Obama,
and Manuel Contreras, a rising senior at Brown University

The Reach Higher Campaign is the First Lady’s effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. Students who attended the Beating the Odds summit were introduced to some basic tools necessary for success while pursuing their secondary education and/or professional training. They also had the opportunity to network among their peers with diverse backgrounds. The event was held on Thursday, July 23, 2015, at the White House.

Better access to education and medical care are important as the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome increases and more emphasis is put on inclusion in the workplace and society. To address the needs of adults with Down syndrome Global has formed the Global Down Syndrome Foundation Adults with Down Syndrome Task Force. The Global Task Force is composed of over 60 dedicated experts, self-advocates and family members from around the world. The members are assisting to establish a world-class interdisciplinary medical care center for adults with Down syndrome.

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