There is no stopping Kate once she makes up her mind. The 18-year-old senior at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, NJ, is a member of the National Honor Society, a cheerleader, manages the girls’ basketball team, and helps out at the local food bank on the weekends. She also has Down syndrome.
“Kathleen is incredibly determined,” says her dad, Jerry, who refers to Kate by her formal name. “She works harder than any of my other kids did in school, but she’s willing to put the effort in.”
While Kate’s early education was a bit rocky (some people underestimated her abilities), she says she owes her current success to her mom, Robin, who passed away almost 2 years ago.
“My mom knew how to push me and challenge me,” Kate says. “She also fought for me to be treated like the other kids, and not just put into special classes. Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Coming out of her shell
Kate has flourished – both academically and socially – in high school, her father says. Her decision to attend Camden Catholic was important for three reasons: tradition (her older siblings attended Catholic high schools), academics (rigorous coursework) and religion (Kate’s faith is very strong).
Kate attends classes and completes the same work as her peers. In some classes, she has an aide; in others, she does not need one. When a subject is particularly challenging for her – like algebra, for example – Kate asks for help. After tutoring from her older sister, Kate mastered the material.
Kate’s social life is extremely full. In the fall, she’s a cheerleader for the high school football team. In fact, her peers just voted her captain of the squad. In the winter, she serves as team manager for girls’ basketball, and in the spring, she manages the girls’ lacrosse team. Throughout the year, she’s part of a program that welcomes new students to the school and shows them around.
Last year, the girls’ basketball coach approached Kate with a question: How would she like to be IN the game? “I was so excited; of course, I said yes,” Kate says. “And I scored a basket at the game. It was awesome!” Kate is hoping to repeat the experience this year.
Bright future ahead
While Kate’s primary focus now is completing her senior year, she is beginning to think about her long-term future. “I want to go to The College of New Jersey, live with friends, and work as a teachers’ aide and blog on the side,” Kate says. “I love to write about my personal experiences.”
Jerry says he wants Kate to be “happy, healthy and live a productive life.” He has no doubt she’ll accomplish her goals.
“When Kathleen was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, I was expecting one thing,” Jerry says. “What I got was something totally different. Kathleen has really opened my eyes – she is truly phenomenal.”
Kate was named a Champion for the 2017 CHOP Buddy Walk. Join her and her team, Kate’s Mates, at Villanova University Stadium on Oct. 1, 2017.