The stigma associated with individuals who have disabilities is often surrounded by a sense of inferiority, disadvantage, and doubt of their capabilities. This adversity wasn’t enough to stop Hank Wolf from making history at JCCC by becoming the first person with down syndrome to hold a position in the student senate.
According to Mayo Clinic, down syndrome varies in severity, causing intellectual and developmental delays.
Wolf is currently a member of the CONNECT program that serves to prepare students for the future through career and independent skills, all while enjoying college life.
“I want to be heard and I want to be recognized for who I am, a student with a disability,” Wolf said.
Before Wolf’s involvement, the student senate lacked the representation of students within the CLEAR and CONNECT program.
Maria Palazuelos, vice president of the student senate, expressed an underlying sorrow due to the amount of time it took for this group to find representation within the student senate.
“Thinking about that did kind of bum me out a bit,” Palazuelos said, “now I’m just glad we were able to take that step forward and create this position.”
Palazuelos believes the lesson to be learned from Wolf’s story is inclusion and representation.
“Always having someone you can identify and relate with is always important to have,” she said. “There’s always a step further we can take to make sure everyone is represented.”
For Wolf, however, his story hits closer to home than one could imagine.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “This has been a blessing to have my mom and my dad proud of me.”
Wolf opened up about his late-uncle who served as an inspiration for his decision to pursue the position in the student senate.
“My uncle is here with me right now,” he said, “he is very inspiring and I love him.”
Upon joining the student senate, Wolf discovered a positive response from the JCCC community.
“I feel accepted for who I am, I love it,” he said.
The supportive reaction from the community has motivated Wolf to continue to grow as a person.
Wolf wants his story to serve as an appreciation for those with disabilities and wants everyone to know that a disability doesn’t hold anyone down from accomplishing amazing things.
“This has been a great opportunity to spread awareness about disability. I made history and I have become a great man.”
Victor Monterroza, staff reporter