Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marina Martinez (a 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome) wasn’t able to travel to New York to speak at the World Down syndrome International conference at the United Nations. Fortunately, they were able to put a virtual conference together to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.
Here is Marina’s Speech for the Self-Advocate Panel.
Click Here for the Video Transcript.
The conference committee wanted to know more about Marina’s friendship with her friend Jordan since kindergarten.
Marina is currently a sophomore at the University of Georgia in the Destination Dawgs program. She is studying marketing and her goal in life is to be independent with a full-time job. Since a very early age, Marina has been an advocate of the Down syndrome community as well as a self-advocate. She is fearless and always ready for new challenges. She has a passion for music, traveling and is very active on social media. Marina has presented a lecture for a genetics class of 160 medical students for five years at Emory University. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and loves learning about new cultures. Marina is 21 years old and lives in Johns Creek, GA where she lives with her parents and older brother, Juan Carlos.
School: University of Georgia’s Destination Dawgs Program
Please describe what you are included in.
I’m taking 5 full time, regular classes and studying marketing as my major. I’m involved in the Wesley Christian organization, UGA Miracle, and Ted Talks UGA. I really enjoy going to UGA sports games and supporting the football, volleyball, and basketball teams!
How are you included in this?
Are you included in all parts of this activity?
Yes, I’m included in activities inside and outside the campus. I scan my UGA ID to go to all these events, and I’m always wearing UGA colors to represent my school. I participate in my classes, conferences, business clubs, sports activities, and many other social events on campus.
Do you make the decisions about what you do and how you do it when you are taking part in the activity?
Yes, I make my own decisions about where to go or what to do. I’m very independent and I take my school activities very seriously.
For my classes, I have a team of teachers and student peer mentors that help me organize my schedule and school responsibilities. My peer mentors go to class with me and help me take notes.
After school, I check my calendar and call my friends so we can hang out.
Are there other people with disabilities included in this activity?
Yes, Destination Dawgs Program is a post-secondary program for students with disabilities.
Why is it important for you to be included?
Because this is where I do belong, my friends and brother went to the same school.
I want to be part of my school and my community. I like taking classes with all the other college students.
How does it make you feel to be included?
It makes me feel blessed to go to the same school as my brother and friends. Also, I feel safe because I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends that I can count on.
What support do you get that enables you to be included?
Do you have a supporter?
Yes, I have student peer mentors, my professors, my friends, my parents, and my brother. They help me take notes, finish my homework, and complete my assignments.
Do you get the information you need in a way you understand?
Yes, I talk with my teachers to make sure I understand. One of the changes is that I get all my papers in a bigger font size so I can see it. I can always ask questions if I don’t understand what I’m learning
Do you get the time you need?
Yes, I get the time I need because I’m very responsible. I organize my schedule and always check to make sure I will finish my assignments on time.
Do you get support to understand what people are saying?
Sometimes but most of the times, I’m part of the conversation. I will ask questions if I don’t understand. If I need more help, then I have my peer mentors to explain the lessons to me.
Do you get support to understand information?
Only when the topic of conversation is very complicated.
Do you get support to make decisions?
Yes, my family helps me but I’m very independent and I make my own decisions for most of everything. I choose what to wear, what to eat, and how I want to spend my free time.
Do you get support to express your opinion?
No. I express myself very well my opinions and ideas.
Do you get support to learn new things and develop new skills?
Yes, this is why I go to college. I want to have a full-time job and college will help me learn the skills I need to be successful. I am learning to be more professional.
Do you get support to have the confidence to speak up?
I speak up for myself since I was little. I advocate and fight for my life and rights.
Are there any challenges with being included?
Yes, getting to the bus by myself using the UGA app. There are a lot of buses so it’s a little confusing sometimes.
Sometimes it is hard to find a ride because my friends are busy.
Are you not included in anything?
No. I’m included in everything at UGA. I feel like I am part of the campus and the university. I love UGA!
What would make you feel more included?
I feel very comfortable at my college. I don’t get lost. I want to get even more involved at UGA!
Do you need any extra support to take part that you are not getting at the moment?
I could use my own personal limo driver to take me to class
Are you always invited to take part in things that other people are doing?
Yes, most of the time. I like to hang out with my friends by the pool or go out to eat. We go to the movies and go to concerts to listen to live music.
Happy World Down Syndrome Day 2020
Thanks for having me!
Photo via Down Syndrome International