On Tuesday, November 17, senior Madison Essig spoke at the White House for the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). With the help of IDEA, Essig will be the first student with Down Syndrome to graduate from Wilson with a standard diploma.
Essig was nominated to speak at the event by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), where she interns. Accompanied by her mother and her former history teacher, Eden McCauslin, Essig was able to tell her inspirational story.
“I really felt like I presented our school well,” Essig said when discussing her experience at the White House. As she stood in front of the crowd she shared how she has made it this far and how she plans to attend college next fall.
Along with other guest speakers from the administration and the U.S. Department of Education, McCauslin had the chance to speak, sharing the story of her cousin FranFran who has Down Syndrome and was banned from Chicago Public Schools. “If FranFran had the same opportunities as Madison, gosh, she could’ve done anything!” McCauslin explained.
As she spoke about her own cousin, she discussed all that teachers can do to help their students succeed. “I made sure to highlight that every student can be successful regardless of disability or not,” she said.
Although Essig wasn’t able to meet either the President or Vice President, she was introduced to many members of the White House staff and even shook Senator Orrin Hatch’s hand. “It was amazing for me even to get the opportunity to be able to speak at this type of event,” Essig said.
“Wilson and DCPS should be celebrating this amazing experience,” McCauslin said. Essig’s accomplishment is not only an incredible personal feat, but also a symbol for what Wilson and DCPS can do in the future.
Essig was certainly celebrated by those who attended the White House celebration. After she shared her story, the crowd erupted into cheers, presenting her with a standing ovation.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ZACH ESSIG