My sister, Ali

Down Syndrome Awareness Month Entry, submit your story here.
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My sister, Ali, who is fourteen months younger than me, is the most hard-working, resilient, and compassionate person I have ever met. She can make just about anyone laugh, her presence lights up every room she walks into, and the thought of her smiling makes me smile. She is stubborn, in a good way, and as funny as can be. Ali is intelligent, witty, caring, friendly, and determined. There is one more thing; Ali has Down syndrome. Now, I mention this last because although this is a big part of who she is, it does not define my sister. I see so much more than an extra chromosome when I look at her. I see my best friend.

Ali has always been more affectionate than me. My parents always say that when I was younger, the only time I liked to snuggle was when I had a fever. Ali was the exact opposite, hugging and cuddling with my family and me any chance she could. By watching Ali, I have slowly learned to reveal my emotions, show affection, and let others know what I am feeling. Although my 16-year-old sister Ali is younger than me, she has served as my role model and has taught me what it truly means to be empathetic, to genuinely feel for someone else and understand exactly what they are going through. As little kids, when I would fall and scrape a knee or stub a toe, she would be right there with me, on the brink of tears, feeling exactly what I was feeling. Even though she was never in any physical pain, it troubled her to think of someone else being hurt.

Ali embodies the definitions of empathy, kind-heartedness, and compassion and has motivated me to give back. I began volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse, an organization that pursues acceptance for all and provides resources for individuals with Down syndrome. Getting to know the kids at GiGi’s Playhouse through cooking classes, dance classes, and conversational sessions has exposed me to a host of new people with spirited personalities and many things to share with the world. From this experience, I have gained even more patience, understanding, and appreciation for a community of more amazing people like my sister.

Ali has also inspired me to make strides in inclusion in my own high school. When faced with the task of coming up with an action plan in a class called Global Scholars, I immediately thought of my sister. I knew that there is a great deal of discrimination against those with disabilities in our world, especially during the pandemic, and I decided to do something about it. I researched the impact of the pandemic on students with disabilities, conducted empathy interviews, and brainstormed ideas. Finally, I decided to create an Instagram page that raises awareness about this issue that has reached my school community, those with disabilities, and many others. I have also built a website that shares instructional videos to help students with disabilities and their families in my school district learn how to use the many apps and websites necessary for learning.

Having Ali as a sister has made my life better in many ways. I have learned so much from her strength and compassion. She forces me to act as if someone is always watching (and to be honest, she always is!). She has helped me become a more understanding, patient, and responsible person. And finally, she has taught me how to love someone unconditionally and with my whole heart.

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