This photo of two Arlington teens with Down syndrome will appear on JumboTron screens in Times Square this weekend as part of a visibility campaign for people with the genetic condition.
It depicts Connor Garwood, 18, and his girlfriend Sarah Buzby, 16, at a virtual prom held in the Garwood’s workout room last May. The two met in preschool at Ashlawn Elementary School and have been “inseparable” ever since, said Connor’s mom Suzanne.
She said she submitted the photo of Connor, wearing his dad’s tuxedo and embracing Sarah, because it was sweet.
“Yeah, that picture is cute,” Connor said. “She kissed me.”
The photo, selected from more than 2,100 entries, will be one of 500 in the hour-long presentation this Saturday (Sept. 18).
“Connor and Sarah’s photo will be shown on two JumboTron screens in the heart of Times Square, thanks to the support of ClearChannel Outdoor,” a National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) press release says.
The video will kick off the Buddy Walk in New York City, hosted by the NDSS, which raises awareness about the disability. The video will also be live-streamed on the society’s Facebook page from 9:30-10:30 a.m. the same day.
“These collective images promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome in a very visible way,” said the press release.
The couple’s prom was hosted by Best Buddies, a national organization that matches kids and adults with disabilities with high school and college students without disabilities. The pandemic-era dance gave Connor, now a Yorktown High School graduate, and Buzby, a senior at Washington-Liberty High School, a chance to see each other during the lockdown.
“It was fun. We danced,” said Connor, who then showed off some of his signature moves.
For Connor, being on the Jumbotron means demonstrating that he is a capable adult. This year, he started the Program for Employment Preparedness at Arlington Career Center, which partners with employers and worksites to transition adults with differing abilities to life after school.
“I want people to know that I know stuff,” he said.
Suzanne said the program teaches him “how to ride the ART bus and the Metro and cook and balance a checkbook, which frankly more colleges ought to teach.”
The video and walk also preview Down syndrome Awareness Month in October, a month that Suzanne uses to highlight the challenges of living with or caring for someone with Down syndrome.
“I try to post things… that, if people knew, they could help with advocacy and make changes to the law that would make life easier for our kids,” Suzanne said.
She is watching some bills in Congress right now that could make it possible for people like Connor to earn more than a sub-minimum wage. Additionally, caps on income and assets for those with Down syndrome to access federal programs like Medicaid may disincentivize seeking higher-paying employment, she said.
October is also a time to humanize people with the condition.
“People think people with Down syndrome have X and Y characteristics and I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said.
Connor is a social media maven who enjoys exercising, especially kickboxing, saying he could protect Sarah in an altercation with his skills. But in a fight, Sarah would likely utilize her charm and humor.
“She’s cute, kind and funny and she makes jokes and dances with her dolls,” said Connor.
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village