Freshman Nick Standerfer loves movies, works out at the University Recreation Center regularly and enjoys making friends. Though Standerfer has Down syndrome, he said he is more similar to other students than some may think.
This October, the university promoted inclusiveness for those with the condition by celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month. In support, many students volunteered at KinderFrogs School, a school for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students with Down syndrome, KinderFrogs administrative assistant Vivian Unger said.
Standerfer said for him, the push for inclusiveness lasts much longer than the month of awareness.
The freshman movement science major from Arizona said he lives in a residence hall with a roommate like any other freshman student.
“I’m a great person because I make friends and everyone loves me,” Standerfer said.
Outside of his studies, Standerfer also works on the sidelines at home football games. He said he loves sports, so helping out at the games seemed a natural fit for him.
“It’s fun, I actually work a lot. I get exhausted,” he said.
Freshman Justin Duke, Standerfer’s roommate, said he did not view the latter’s condition as a big deal, but that people needed to be more aware of those living with Down syndrome.
“It shouldn’t need to be something that we need to…really focus on because it’s not that big of a deal,” Duke said. “Nick’s doing just fine.”
Makayla Maddux, a KinderFrogs volunteer, said many people struggle with how to act around people with intellectual disabilities.
“The only way awareness and acceptance are going to come about is actually talking about it and just trying to learn all you can,” Maddux said.
Maddux, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, said she volunteers with the students at KinderFrogs about three times a week. She said ignoring people with Down syndrome or feeling sorry for them is not the way to deal with the awkwardness.
“Don’t feel sorry for them because they’re doing their own thing, they get through. They just have different things to overcome,” Maddux said.
Standerfer said he is proof that he can make it on his own, so people should not feel sorry for him. Like everyone else, he just wants to be accepted for who he is.