By Ariyah Armstrong and Natassia Aleman-Teweles, Clarion Staff
Everyone must overcome obstacles in life. Life’s unexpected hurdles can completely change the course of one’s future. However, one special education student at Kennedy leaps over those obstructions with confidence. Haleigh Lee is a junior born with the genetic chromosomal disorder Down syndrome. Even though her condition makes it difficult for her to learn at the same pace of many other students, that does not set her back when it comes to achieving her goals and having fun. To her friends and family, Haleigh is just an average teenage girl; one who enjoys hanging out with friends and talking, as well as writing music and having a good time.
Haleigh and multiple others with a similar condition or learning disabilities, spend a majority of their time in the classes that are apart of our school’s special education department. This division of our school works to give students opportunities that they can access with their abilities, including a variety of sports, office, and social, skills. Haleigh and her peers also go out in the community and perform different services that help our local communities and neighborhoods. Community service projects that the special education classes participate in include collecting pop tabs for Ronald McDonald’s house and making cards for the ACC Senior Services located behind Nugget Market.
Haleigh loves doing schoolwork and learning. Her favorite subjects are math and English, and her love of school has helped her decide what occupation she will pursue in her near future. “[I want to] be a teacher,” Haleigh stated when asked about her career. “[I want to be a teacher] because I want to help students and teach math and English.”
When asked how she would characterize Haleigh as a student, Cathy Stidger (one of Haleigh’s key special education teachers), described her as being very eager to learn. Stidger stated, “Haleigh’s very motivated. She really likes learning, especially science and history.” She also mentioned how Haleigh always tries her best and completes her work, “She is very [outgoing] and is becoming more and more independent.”
Other hobbies Haleigh enjoys include singing and swimming. Haleigh is currently in choir and swims competitively at a nearby community pool. Haleigh practices often in order to further improve her skills. Haleigh last participated in a Special Olympics competition on May 6th and competed in the 25m freestyle, the 50m freestyle, and the 25m backstroke. She received two medals and a ribbon for her amazing skills in the pool. She also likes how swimming works her out and helps her burn carbs.
Haleigh also helps by passing out snacks to the ASSETs (After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) students after school. She’s been helping the program out since her freshman year and continuously manages to show up after school hours to do her part, while staying enthusiastic and keeping a smile on her face.
Ms. Chandler Cooper, ASSETs Program Manager, expressed her feelings and thoughts about Haleigh’s great and encouraging mentality: “She loves to help so I can give her a project or an assignment or something and she’ll jump right into it.” Haleigh also helps out the program by typing out lists, filing papers, and doing any tasks that needs to be done. Mrs. Cooper praised Haleigh’s work, “She calls [helping pass out snacks] her job, and she takes that really seriously. She signs in and out everyday even though she doesn’t have to. But she takes it very, very seriously.”
Although Haleigh admitted to being somewhat overwhelmed during passing periods and lunch, she never failed to show her gratitude and love toward our school. Other than her favorite classes, Haleigh also enjoys culinary arts where she gets to learn to cook and make food. She also made many references to her friends, and how they continue to impact her life. Haleigh represents a perfect example of a person overcoming obstacles and remaining positive in a world that can be often challenging.