Resilience and Undeniable Charm


Between his hit online performances and his loving nature, Isaiah Lombardo is responsible for thousands upon thousands of smiles.

From Down Syndrome World Issue 1, 2023

When 27-year-old Isaiah Lombardo is asked to describe himself in three words, he beams and answers, “handsome, charming and handsome,”

His mother, Angela, protests— “you already said handsome!”— so he offers an amendment: “and I rock.”

“That’s Isaiah, definitely no self-esteem issues here,” laughs Angela.

It’s a Friday in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Isaiah is enjoying a day off from work. This usually involves hanging out with family and friends, playing Xbox, and venturing out to a local play or the beach when weather permits. Five days a week, he takes an Uber by himself to his job at Shake Shack. As a full-time restaurant employee, he’s responsible for essential functions including cooking, cleaning, and customer service.

“I love it,” says Isaiah.

Shake Shack offers a more consistent schedule than his previous event-based work at Fenway Park and Boston University’s Agganis Arena. Those jobs did have their perks, Isaiah points out, like getting to cater a World Series Gala and usher concerts for the likes of Lizzo, Bad Bunny and Billy Joel.


Music has always been one of Isaiah’s passions. He’s been singing, dancing, and finding the percussive potential of household objects for as long as he and Angela can remember. Like many of us, the pair turned to music to help cope with 2020’s isolating quarantine periods.

What started as just a fun pastime quickly touched hundreds of hearts when Angela posted videos of Isaiah singing and dancing to his favorite songs on Facebook. Daily Facebook Live jam sessions gave Isaiah and his fans something to look forward to during extremely trying times. He performed his favorite songs, took requests, and kept his fans well-fed by posting almost every day for over a month.

He soon became a featured artist with the online group Quarantine Karaoke, and his videos earned thousands of views.

“People went bananas about it,” Angela smiles, “he has an incredible memory, so he knows all the words… people are like, ‘how do you know Bon Jovi? How do you know Eminem and Green Day?’”

Isaiah still posts his home performances frequently on his public Facebook page—just search his name and join his 1000-plus followers for some extra joy in your newsfeed!

Any longtime fans of Isaiah know his entertainment skills are not confined to music. In 2020, he showed off his modeling skills in the virtual Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show alongside his celebrity escort, 9News anchor Tom Green.



High school, and the transition program he attended from ages 18-22, hold fond memories for Isaiah. He was fully included in mainstream prevocational and academic classes with each track customized to meet his specific needs. He was the manager of the football team, ran track, worked in the student-run café, and earned a first-aid certification. Outside of school, he stayed busy with dance classes, boxing, and Special Olympics basketball. He even went on to attend Bunker Hill Community college. Thanks to his caring nature and boundless charm, he had amazing friends everywhere he went.

But school wasn’t always easy—early education was especially challenging. When Angela tried to enroll Isaiah in their local preschool, she was met with insistence that he attend a special needs program instead.

“They said, ‘there’s a class for kids like him,” recounts Angela.

Angela felt strongly that special education classes were not the best fit for her son. Fortunately, she was able to enroll Isaiah in fully inclusive programs from preschool through second grade. He thrived in those settings, but challenges arose when Isaiah changed schools in third grade and was no longer immediately welcomed into mainstream classrooms.

Angela cites one example of many: the time when, despite Isaiah having the highest reading level in his learning support class, his teacher expressed hesitancy about working with a child who has Down syndrome.

“It’s not about that,” attests Angela, “You know what his abilities are, teach him. It doesn’t matter what his labels are,”

Isaiah was also made to feel “othered” by fellow students at times. Fourth grade, he remembers, was plagued by consistent bullying.

“It’s hard to be a kid when you’re in fourth grade and something’s different about you, no matter what it is,” says Angela.

“It was hard,” Isaiah agrees, nodding in confirmation.

As an adult, Isaiah went on to routinely give presentations to local fourth grade classes about his life as a person with Down syndrome, embracing our differences and treating one another with kindness.

“I am passionate about people treating each other nice,” explains Isaiah, “I am proud of the talks I do to teach people about Down syndrome and my life. I am proud to help others learn,”



Isaiah also reminds his family that differences are to be celebrated. By coincidence, Angela already held a degree in Elementary Education and Moderate Special Needs and would later become the Program Coordinator for Boston Children’s Hospital Down Syndrome Program. Isaiah’s large extended family, however, knew very little about Down syndrome. Of course, that didn’t stop them from accepting and valuing Isaiah for his big personality and even bigger heart.

Isaiah was born very premature at 30 weeks and weighed just three pounds. He spent two and a half months in the natal intensive care unit and was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition that affects the large intestine. His early health problems, magnetic personality and deep capacity for love gave the family cause to band together, stronger than ever.

“I think everyone just kind of rallied around him,” says Angela, “and he’s been this kind of glue. He brought a little extra flavor into our world, and he made it richer.”

Angela even jokes that Isaiah should own stock in Hallmark because of the impressive number of cards he writes and sends to loved ones.

“It’s important to see family and keep connections with family and friends,” notes Isaiah.



Today, Isaiah is an accomplished man, valued and respected by many.  He loves his life, and is always working on ways he can grow. His short-term goal is to get back into recreational sports and maybe join a gym to be more active again. Long-term, he’s working to move out of his mother’s home and into his own place.

“Right now, I’m trying to improve at becoming more independent,” he says.

Angela agrees that Isaiah could thrive in his own apartment with roommates to compliment his social nature and some system in place to monitor his health.

“There’s no reason he can’t live on his own,” says Angela, “If I ever let him go, that is. It’s just been me and him for all these years, so it’s hard for a momma bird!”

Isaiah has experienced his share of trials, tribulations and celebrations in his 27 years as a man with Down syndrome. He’s aware of his differences and knows that he is who he is because he has Down syndrome. He wouldn’t change a thing, and calls for everyone to join him in looking at our differences in a positive light.

“Everyone is different and it’s fine. Sometimes it can be hard, but not always. Be proud and remember you are perfect the way you are. You do your best and reach for the stars.”