One of our former colleagues at The Arcadia Institute, Sara Burhans, now an enthusiastic Zumba instructor shared this story. Class can’t start without Rey. The music is cued, the Zumba participants are in rows, but the class can’t start until Rey arrives and takes her place in the front row. In fact, the other students won’t let Sara start class without being sure that Rey will be in class.
Rey is a young woman with Down Syndrome. She is quiet and shy. Rarely does she speak to the others in the Zumba class, but when the music starts Rey transforms into a confident woman. She knows the moves and does her best. While the rest of the students vie for the back row because they are self-conscious, Rey claims her place in the front proudly shaking her sparkly coin skirt.
Rey’s mother Lynda started taking her to Zumba classes at Curves where Sara taught. When Sara started teaching for Portage Community Education, Lynda and Rey followed her to those classes as well. Now Lynda doesn’t always attend because Zumba is Rey’s thing and the people in the class are part of Rey’s community.
Growing up with a brother with disabilities taught Lynda that community inclusion is important. It probably never occurred to her not to find ways for her daughter to be included in the community.
This is a story of community participation that is really not anything special. No one questioned whether or not Rey would be successful, or asked if she should be in a special class. Her mom took her, Sara taught her and now she has found a way to express herself and be a role model for the others in her Zumba class.
(What is Zumba? Visit http://www.zumba.com/about/ for more information.)