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NOTE: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

I am Rachel Mast. I am 19 years old. I really love my life.

I have a great life, and I love telling people how great my life is.

I was born in Memphis. In third grade, my family moved to Olathe, Kansas.

I love lots of things about my life. I love my church. I love my school. I love my family. I love dancing, acting, and singing. One of the best things about my life is my friends.

I graduated from Olathe South High School in May. Just like my friends, I got a diploma. I loved my school. I was on student council, and was the volleyball manager for four years. In ninth grade, I was on the Winter Court. I was the Prom Princess. …

After three devastating hurricanes struck the Caribbean, the Department of Education undertook a series of actions to support the U.S. Virgin Islands through their recovery process. As part of that effort, ED staff committed to travelling to the Islands to provide resources, assistance, and expertise.

In November, as the ED team began their descent into the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the large-scale devastation left by Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria became alarmingly clear. Once lushly green, the landscape had turned muddy and brown. Roads were washed out entirely; buildings were roofless or pushed off their foundations; parts of the islands were left in total darkness. …

Before Trevor Beauchamp of La Crescenta, California, decided it was time to change schools, his greatest challenge was getting to class on time.

Trevor was born with spastic cerebral palsy, a condition that severely limits his mobility and requires extra effort, even when walking a few steps. The challenge was compounded by the extremely hilly terrain on his school’s campus. And although he had access to the school elevator, he still labored to get from one class to the next in the allotted three minutes.

Trevor willingly embraced this daily struggle because he always understood the importance of education. …

Toni Airaksinen, a senior at Barnard College in New York, illustrates the powerful impact of school choice and how a student’s potential for prosperity can be supported with access to educational options.

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Her daily struggles consisted of parents who were unable to invest in her education, as well as inadequate access to supports, financial resources, and transportation to her desired school.

“My family was constantly faced with difficult situations due to our lack of finances. They didn’t have time to worry about my schooling. But, I knew I wanted something better out of life,” says Toni.

When Toni graduated from middle school in Cleveland, Ohio, she had two options: To attend the local high school that had a bad track record of not graduating students, or to commute two hours each way by multiple buses to a magnet school on the opposite side of town. …

Today, I’m a junior at Howard University. But things could have turned out differently if I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue a different educational path when I was younger.

Thankfully, my parents were given the option to exercise school choice, which is, unfortunately, not the norm for every student in America.

My story begins in the 4th grade, when I attended my neighborhood elementary school.

There, I was intimidated. I shied away from speaking up in class. I only passed through grades because I seemed like a good student — but I didn’t really understand my lessons. …

Looking beyond disaster relief and recovery in Puerto Rico’s hurricane-damaged schools, toward building a better, stronger future for students.

“When can I go back to school?”

When that experience is disrupted, getting back to school can mean everything to students. And the adults who care for them — parents, educators and civic leaders — feel a special urgency.

For our fellow Americans in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, including more than 410,000 students in grades K-12, the 2017 hurricane season severely disrupted those reliable routines. First Irma hit, leaving more than one million people — nearly a third of the population on an island the size of Connecticut — without power. …

Two trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands opened my eyes to the enormity of the challenges students, educators and families there face, and what lies ahead to reverse the impact of two catastrophic hurricanes on the U.S. Territory.

This past fall I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, twice — first, in October, and two weeks later, in the company of Secretary DeVos. There, I saw firsthand the wholesale destruction left by back-to-back hurricanes. The experience was both humbling and uplifting.

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Even when walls withstood the storms, torn-off roofs meant destroyed classrooms and equipment.

During my first visit, I joined the Commissioner of Education for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Sharon McCollum, on a car trip around the Islands. On our way, she noticed the owner of a damaged wholesale club store — he was outside, combing through inventory, trying to salvage any goods that Hurricanes Maria and Irma had spared. …

A guest blog by Jessica Wilson. Jessica and her son, Jasper (aka Jaz, Jazzy, the JazMaster, or Dude!), live in a cozy house of fur with two crazy dogs and two lazy cats. Their favorite activities include singing movie hits, dancing in the kitchen, snuggling and traveling the world together. Jessica is Director of Communication and Dissemination for the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and Resources for Access, Independence and Self-Employment (RAISE) projects with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey.

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

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Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper

Things People Say:

Number One. “Did you know?”

They never complete the thought, as if just looking at him implies what they’re really asking. I ache to play dumb: Know what? That he would almost never cry as a baby and be a champion sleeper? That he would love to swim but hate to play soccer? That I could love him ’til it hurts and still get so annoyed by some of his antics? As obnoxious as my brain screams for me to be, I simply answer, “No. After losing the first one, I didn’t want to take any chances with this very wanted baby.” …

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.

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A teacher can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.

Actually, they can make or break a child’s entire school year by understanding what accommodations in a 504 Plan or an individualized education program (IEP) can do to help a person like me who works every day to overcome the impact of dyslexia, dysgraphia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

I have had a 504 Plan since the fourth grade. It’s supported me through elementary school, middle school and now into high school.

At the beginning of the year, I introduce myself and my accommodations through email. I think it’s important for my teachers to know why I benefit from something that most of the other kids in my class don’t use. The game changers for me…

Secretary DeVos recaps the final day of the 2017 Rethink School Tour

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |

It’s hard to believe our Rethink School Tour has come to its final day! Throughout the week we’ve highlighted innovative schools and communities from Wyoming to Indiana that are tangibly rethinking how we can better deliver education to students. We saw some great ones today!

We began at Kansas City Academy in Missouri, a school that focuses on empowering its students in a unique and inclusive learning environment. At KCA, they believe “Students teach. Teachers learn.” Students are able to sit on the school’s board, with full voting privileges. …


U.S. Dept. of Education

News, information and stories from across our nation.

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