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More Alike Than Different

Trion City School System has planned special events during October for Down Syndrome Awareness Month, using the events as a chance to spread awareness.  During the month of October, the school is celebrating people with Down syndrome and helping to make people aware of their abilities, accomplishments and presence in the classroom and school.  Down Syndrome Awareness is not about celebrating disabilities, it’s a way to celebrate abilities. Trion City School has two students with Down Syndrome. All grades have came together during the month of October to celebrate Joni Gary is in Pre-K and Jenna Dawson is in 1st grade.


Joni Gary is in Kla Willingham’s Pre-K classroom and to kick off Down Sydrome Awareness the entire Prek (c/o 2030) had cupcakes to celebrate and show their support to Joni (her buddy walk in Chattanooga was the next day). Jenna Dawson is in Kasey Ramsey’s 1st grade class. “TES sold shirts to raise money for Jenna and Joni’s buddy walks. We will wear the shirts every Monday and on Oct. 21 in recognition of the 21st chromosome that makes them so special…” commented Willingham.

The school had a spirit walk for both of the girls to raise awareness in the school. They were led by the THS drummers and followed by the THS cheerleaders in the walk. “Each day we had read books and watched videos in my classroom about children with Down syndrome. The more we know, the better friend we can be,” said Willingham. Click here to watch the video of the spirit walk.


All On Georgia asked Jenna Dawson’s mom, Shanna, about the community support that has been shown to Jenna throughout the years, “our church has been really involved with Jenna over the years. When she was a baby at 6 months old she had heart surgery to repair AV canal and TOF defects with her heart. Our Trion Heights Baptist Church family came over to our house before her surgery and stood around the outside of our house to pray. They have also included her in everything there, like letting her sing in the choir on Sunday mornings. She went through the Babies Can’t Wait program and PALS program here in the county before she was of school age. Trion also had a nursery and toddler room that she was allowed to go to before prek. All these programs really benefited her over the years. We have done the Buddy walk in Atlanta for several years now to help raise money for the Down Syndrome Association. Over the years we have met so many wonderful people in the county that have someone with DS in there family or who connect with Jenna. God seems to put these people in our lives when we need them. She has always participated in sports through the Trion Recreation Department and she has loved cheerleading this year. God has just always led us in the right direction and to the right people over the years that would be best for Jenna. Every once in a while we will encounter someone who is not open to including Jenna, but that has been a very rate occurrence for us so far. Usually most people are very open and accepting to her in our community. Trion Schools has always been very supportive and her teachers there go above and beyond. We seem to always have some sort of challenge to over come, but Jenna never gives up. She loves to do many of the same things other kids her age like to do. She loves gymnastics, swimming, watching TV, playing with her brother, and jumping on the trampoline. She is more alike other kids than she is different.”


Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome – about 6,000 each year. There are approximately 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States. Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.  Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

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