Lauren Potter, who portrays Becky Jackson in the popular Fox show “Glee,” told her story of how she overcame her restrictions with Down syndrome and how she achieved her dream of being an actress during the “Living a Glee-ful Life” event on Saturday, Nov. 18. With the help of ParentMap, Autism Spectrum Navigators and numerous other organizations, this event, held in the cafeteria, was launched in order to educate parents about children with special needs.
At the event, people were greeted with a tote bag filled with brochures for organizations that assist children with intellectual or physical disabilities. Additionally, there were booths around the first floor of the C building that gave more information.
There were three speakers during the event. Steve Ferreira, who is BC’s Peer-to-Peer coordinator, board member at the Arc of King County and president of a non-profit organization known as Beyond Disabilities that spreads disability awareness, began the event with his speech. He explained he was born with cerebral palsy and how, at a young age, he loved athletics. He spoke of his experiences with being bullied in high school, describing an event when some classmates “pushed me off my wheelchair and turned off the lights in the bathroom.” He noted his confusion of the situation and stated “I was so afraid.” Nonetheless, Ferreira graduated high school and attended Bellevue College, where he earned his degree. Additionally, Ferreira listed his many feats that defied his restraint from cerebral palsy. He became an international athlete and competed in track and field at Indiana and the Czech Republic. At the Czech Republic in 2010, Ferreira won a gold medal and went on to win a silver medal at the 2013 Paralympic Trials in Indiana.
The second speaker was Ben Wahl, who started Ryther’s Aspiring Youth Program which helps students with Autism, ADHD or other neurological disabilities. He educated parents on different methods to accommodate children with special neurological needs. Wahl mentioned that “some of my greatest life experiences come from teaching these children.” He also added, “I heard some of the funniest jokes from the students,” and then continued on to talk about his missions as the initiator of the program.
The final speaker, Lauren Potter approached the stage and excited the crowd. Potter told her story about [living with Down syndrome] and how she landed the role on “Glee.” She explained her innate connection with artistic mediums and added that “I started walking when I was two, but before then I started dancing.” Growing up, Potter always wanted to be an actress on TV. According to Potter, although many people doubted her aspirations she never backed down and her bold reply would be “just watch.” In 2007, Potter made her debut as an actress on “Mr. Blue Sky,” a story about social inclusion and acceptance of people with Down syndrome. Two years later, Potter found herself as Becky Jackson, the cheerleader with Down syndrome on the successful TV series “Glee.” Potter gave her moving story about accepting differences and striving for a dream. She ended her speech with the encouraging words, “Find and love your voice and never stop following your dreams.”
After her speech, she began answering questions from the crowd. Many of them asked her about the final season of Glee. Others wanted her to sing a song. A few inquired about how she became so confident and accepting of her disabilities. To this, she responded, “I see [disabilities] as a strength and not a weakness.” After the questionnaire, people lined up to take a photo with Potter and get autographs.
According to ASN program manager Sara Gardner, the event’s main purpose was “to bring students, families and people of all ages together to understand that everyone has the potential to do whatever they choose to do and they shouldn’t feel limited by circumstance or a disability.” Gardner hoped this event successfully shared the motivational message “be exceptional,” to all of the participants. Ferreira also concurred with this sentiment and added that “people with disabilities are capable of many accomplishments in life.” Gardner believed that “working with your strengths and not trying to fix the problem” is the best way to successfully overcome an obstacle. Ferreira advised that “you need to not be ashamed of who you are. You need to accomplish your goals at your own pace.”