Ambassadors

Ambassadors2018-02-01T16:07:21+00:00

Brandon GruberA little bit more about Brandon…
Age: 19

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Cosmo Chic Fashion Design, Indigital Institute of Recording Arts, College of Adaptive Arts, First Take Acting, Painting with Ms. Padma, and Digital Nest.

We asked each of our Ambassadors a few questions about their higher educational journey and what they have been up to lately:

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

My favorite part of my study of the arts was the music class I took at the Indigital Institute of the Recording Arts. I liked it because it gives me a chance to become the music artist I want to become. It makes me feel happy focusing on one song, then the next song. I have been having fun, enjoying being creative, going to different schools, and I feel great about studying different things. I am very self-disciplined with my educational self. This helps me as a recording artist because I know how to make things sound perfect and/or better.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

The most valuable thing I have learned academically, is if I work hard, I can push myself to go further. I got all A’s in my senior year which was a goal since 5th grade. Socially, I have so many friends who care for me. My friends are important to me because they help me feel accepted and good about myself. This makes me feel completely like a man. I don’t feel like a child anymore. I have learned to stay in touch with the world on the internet. I care deeply about others and I feel proud of my friends reaching their goals too. I also learned that I want to give back to the world.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college(after high school experience).

A proud moment for me was when I was taking a Speaking with Confidence class, I used it in real life. Last November, I gave a speech in Los Angeles at an Act to Change conference. I expressed myself to the group on ways to stop bullying. I felt proud of myself because I let them know how I felt and I learned that I’m not alone! Looking back to high school, I was the voice for many. I am still the voice for them right now but they will find theirs. “Some people at the high school tried to bury us, but they did not realize we were seeds.”

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

My future goals are to be the first designer/model with Down Syndrome in New York City fashion week, keep building skills to stop others from bullying, spread the word about 321 Life Academy. I want to be a performing artist (music and acting), I am still thinking of being a mentor/teacher for young kids and teens, and I want to move to Los Angeles.
Right now I am focusing on music recording, songwriting, fashion design, acting (performing), teaching young teens and kids(321life Academy), planning ahead, editing my blog, google calendar and having a job. I feel amazing, great, excited and happy! It’s a powerful feeling!

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

When I began my higher education on the road to independence, I discovered how to take public transportation. I learned how to handle things for myself and to get better at my own skills. In speaking with confidence class helps me to build my confidence and communication. The Digital Nest helps me to organize my thoughts using computer skills. I am building my acting skills and control of body language and speech. I wanted to get better in math. Getting good with math in the visual arts.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

I will tell them, “Believe in yourself, never give up, love yourself, and love others. Just have fun!
Try your best and always be kind to everyone. Have fun with it and give it your best. ” Those last two are my personal mottos. I might also say, “I’m rockin’ it, you can too!”

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

To me, being a Ruby’s Rainbow ambassador means being a professional. The nomination makes me feel very fun, happy, and confident. The whole experience of being nominated for ambassador is telling me that I should be a professional person. Ruby’s Rainbow is a big deal to me because you make it possible for people with Down Syndrome to try and make it to their goals. There is a power in me that tells me I want to be a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador.
People with Down Syndrome are different from most people, but we are not part of a separate world. Some people think we are. I see other people with special needs who feel the same feelings I had in high school: isolated, excluded, not fitting in, we are shut down. We should not be separated though, we belong in the same schools. The worlds of special needs and the general student populations need to collide! This is coming from my heart. It tells me that I should bring together all the worlds and share the stories that we have. We have all different kinds of worlds and stories.
My world is about sharing and giving a chance to everyone. Sharing the heart of the stories with other people, I might change the way someone sees their world. I want to empower people to be kind to each other. If I am selected as a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador, it will help the whole world because I have a voice and will help others find theirs. The story of the special needs world needs to be heard.

Thank you!
Brandon Gruber, self-advocate

Rachel HandlinA little bit more about Rachel…

Age: 20

We asked each of our Ambassadors a few questions about their higher educational journey and what they have been up to lately:

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Bachelor of Fine Arts – Photograph and Media at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

I like all the classes. Learning to develop the pictures is fun.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

Learning to talk to people about my pictures.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college.

Putting my photos in the gallery show. [At the end of first semester.]

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

I want to be a photographer.

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

I’m learning to do a lot all by myself.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

I think everybody should go to school. You can do it, too!

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

I’d like to help Ruby’s Rainbow help people go to college.

Keep on rockin’ it, Rachel!!!

Matt MooreA little bit more about Matthew…
Age: 26

We asked each of our Ambassadors a few questions about their higher educational journey and what they have been up to lately:

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Vanderbilt University Next Steps Program

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

I enjoyed meeting new friends and learning to be more independent. I really enjoyed being equipment manager for Vanderbilt football team as one of my internships.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned?
This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

I learned how to meet new people and make new friends. I learned how to speak up for myself and let people know when I didn’t understand something or needed help. I learned to talk about my feelings. I learned how to find my way on campus and it’s a big campus. I learned to go to my classes by myself and get back to Next Steps.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college.

I was proud when Coach Franklin asked me and my buddy, Will, to walk with the football team and cheerleaders and band down the Starwalk before one of Vanderbilt football games. I was also very proud when I was a part of the graduation ceremony. I was very nervous but so happy and proud.

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

I have two jobs. I work three days a week at Best Buy in Cool Springs and one day a week with Best Buddies Tennessee. With Best Buddies I help start new chapters in local schools, and I speak to students and teachers about why I like Best Buddies. I help with special events and fundraising. I like singing songs at events with Kristen.

At Best Buy I work with stocking, returns, cleaning and recycling. I have made a lot of new friends at Best Buy who follow me on Facebook. Best Buy has asked me to talk about my experiences when Williamson County students come to the store for job training.

I volunteer with Special Olympics Tennessee on a Karaoke Committee. We are planning a karaoke night with Special Olympics athletes. Special Olympics as asked me to help with the event, sale tickets, and assist the DJ.

I volunteer with The Arc in giving speeches to local community groups about what The Arc does and how they’ve helped me with job coaching.

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

My experiences at Next Steps gave me the confidence that I could do new things and I could make new friends by myself.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

If you want to do it, you can do it.

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

I really appreciate the scholarship that Ruby’s Rainbow gave me so I could go to Vanderbilt University. I would like to tell people about how Ruby’s Rainbow helped me go to college and how I have used those experiences in my life.

Kailin KeldermanA little bit more about Kailin…

Age: 21

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Path to Independence, University of Nevada Reno

We asked each of our Ambassadors a few questions about their higher educational journey and what they have been up to lately:

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

I like everything about college! I like learning.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

I have learned to be more independent. I now live on my own with a roommate.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college(after high school experience).

I got a B in photography!

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

I want to work at a hospital and stand on my own.

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

I walk to college from my house by myself and I find my way around campus.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

It is hard work..but you can do it!!

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

I want to be an Ambassador so I can tell people to go to college and about Ruby’s Rainbow!!

Keep on rockin’ it, Kailin!!!

Paige SodermanA little bit more about Paige…

Age: 21

University or Program you attended or are currently attending: (UP) Program at Western Carolina University

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

My favorite part of college is learning new ways of doing things and meeting lots of new friends.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

The most valuable thing I have learned is how to listen better and become more social with other people.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college.

The best proud moment was when I learned how to play the trumpet and then playing in front of everybody at the WCU football Homecoming game.

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

My goals for graduating becoming are independent, live on my own in an apartment, and paying my own bills.

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

It helps me to be a better person by teaching me how to interact with other people.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

To follow their dreams. If you want it, go for it and you will get it.

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

By being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador I know I will need to work hard and represent the program professionally. It is really important to me to be an ambassador.

Mark HublarA little bit more about Mark…

Age: 51

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Jeffferson Community Technical College and College Connections / Down Syndrome Louisville

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

I learned things to help me be a great motivational speaker. My favorite class was Public Speaking

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

I can be a good college students by studying and getting good grades. I can get a college degree like my brothers. I learned to work with other people in my class

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college.

When I made my own presentation and talked to the class. I got an A

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

I want to be a motivational speaker and teach the world why me and my friends with disabilities should be include in everything. I am now speaking to students in high school and grade school and to parents and they pay me to speak

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

I learned how to be on time for my classes. I learned how to study and how to turn my home work in on time

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

Go for it! If I can do it you can do it too! Go for your dreams and don’t look back, You can do it, you can do it.

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

It means a lot to and my life. I can talk to everyone about Ruby’s Rainbow and how you have helped my meet my goals and live my dreams.

Jared OkunA little bit more about Jared…

Age: 22

University or Program you attended or are currently attending:

Otsego Academy

1. What is (or was) your favorite part about your college experience so far?

My favorite part of college is to be more independent and learn new life skills.

2. What is (or was) the most valuable thing you have learned? This could be academically and/or social accomplishments, or overall independence goals.

To take constructive criticism.

3. Please give an example of a proud moment you have had while attending college.

My internship at the school at Pathfinder. I applied, interviewed and then got the job!

4. What are your goals once you graduate? If you have already graduated, what are you doing now?

One day I would love to be married, have a job and live independently.

5. How has higher education helped you on the road to becoming more independent?

How to live a healthy lifestyle, how to budget my money and to make dinner.

6. What would you say to encourage someone with Down syndrome who was thinking of going for their dream of higher education?

It offers them more independence and freedom, it is a life-changing experience!

7. What would being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador mean to you?

Being a Ruby’s Rainbow Ambassador would give me the opportunity to tell others that just because we have Down syndrome that does not mean you should give up hope.

Keep on rockin’ it Jared!!! You are one amazing dude!