You’ve probably seen this incredible World Down Syndrome Day PSA. I’ve yet to watch it without smiling and crying simultaneously.
Gorgeous actress and model, Olivia Wilde, spending time with family, working, dating, living an ordinary life. But the voice is not Olivia Wilde’s. And the life it describes is anything but ordinary.
20-year-old AnnaRose is the voice behind the 2016 World Down Syndrome Day PSA “How Do You See Me?”
She says the video perfectly reflects her life of inclusion: “I want people with Down syndrome to be heard and to be treated with respect like everybody else. I think that speaking up is the right way to advocate for people who have Down Syndrome like me.”
The ad quickly became a sensation in and out of the Down syndrome community, but AnnaRose says a more recent accomplishment is what really makes her proud.
“I just graduated from Rowan College in New Jersey, and I’m so excited and proud of myself. I did a lot of exciting things to achieve my goal of graduating.”
AnnaRose says the best part of college life was being included on campus. “I’m a DJ at the Pemberton Campus at RCBC and I have also worked at the bookstore at the RCBC Mount Laurel Campus,” she explains.
This incredible self-advocate didn’t stumble upon fame and inclusion at college by accident. AnnaRose says she and her family have worked hard from day one to make her a fully included member of her school and community.
“I have always been in inclusive classes, ever since I started school. My classmates have helped me with school projects, sharing notes, following along, and learning acceptable behavior. I also have had to work sometimes to get my teachers on board with MY educational goals. I had to show them that I want to learn. In 2014, I graduated from high school and got my diploma. I was a member of the National Honor Society and an active member of many clubs in my high school,” AnnaRose describes.
She’s also been included in sports teams throughout her childhood, and in 2015 she was invited as a VIP guest of the ticker tape parade after the USA Women’s National Soccer Team won the Women’s FIFA World Cup.
AnnaRose takes her role as self-advocate seriously.
I had the privilege of meeting her this past April, as we both advocated for the rights of individuals with Down syndrome on Capitol Hill. There, she spoke with Congressmen about issues that impact her.
“For all my life, in my experience, inclusion works. Studies prove that inclusion works for everyone. But, there is still a lot of work to be done,” she argues.
AnnaRose says she is not the exception to the rule. “Inclusion is for everyone,” she argues.
For those who want to follow her path of inclusion, AnnaRose has this advice:
“In high school, you have to take serious, inclusive classes. Academics comes first. You have to be prepared to work hard in college, and that starts in middle and high school, even elementary school…
You should also take classes that you are passionate about so that in college, you will know what you want to learn more about. I took TV Technology in high school, and then interned in that classroom in college for my major, Entertainment Technology: Video and Digital Media Production. You should also make friends who support your goals, and who you can support, too. I have friends on both sides: with and without Down syndrome. That is important.”
The recent college grad now plans to look for a summer job in filmmaking, radio, or television. She’ll further her education this fall. ” I’m going to Rider University to continue my degree in Filmmaking, TV and Radio,” AnnaRose explains.
And while her ultimate dream is to work on or behind the silver screen, that dream also includes something most of us take for granted.
“I dream of having a strong group of supportive friends, and of being treated with respect by everyone I meet and work with.”