Success Stories

Submit Your Success Story

We want to hear about your employment or entrepreneurial success story! NDSS is featuring stories from across the country from the perspective of employees and entrepreneurs with Down syndrome. Please complete the form below and submit a picture of a self-advocate in action! 

Submit Your Success Story

Miles Evans headshot

Miles Evans

Miles Evans is busy 21-year-old from Glen Ellyn, Illinois who loves to work. Miles began volunteering at age 10 as a way to give back and gain job skills. He spent three years as an activity volunteer at a local assisted living community followed by two years as a meal server for homeless community members. During high school, Miles participated in several job training experiences which led him to his love for restaurant work and customer service. Miles applied for his first paid position in late 2018 and was hired at Blackberry Market, a local cafe and bakery within walking distance of home. Miles finds joy in his work bussing tables, caring for customers, and other front of house tasks. Miles and several of his co-workers were unable to work during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his bosses at Blackberry Market brought Miles back as a valued team member and trained him on dishwashing and meal delivery to broaden his skills during a time of limited in-restaurant dining. He also works two times a month at a second Blackberry Market location in LaGrange, Illinois. Miles continues his love for volunteering as a Lions Club member, usher at a local arts center, volunteer track coach, self-advocate for National Association for Down Syndrome, and congressional campaign intern. He completes his transition program in 2021 and is looking into inclusive college programs and supported housing

Tyler Huisman headshot
Cleaning Services

Tyler Huisman

Tyler is 32 years old & from the Grand Rapids area in Michigan. Most of Tyler’s adult life, he has volunteered at various businesses in the area. He considers this his job and looks forward to it every day. In Fall of 2020, Tyler’s sister spoke with Tim Sobie at Sobie Meats in Walker, Michigan and asked if they had any odd jobs that Tyler could do. Tim immediately hired Tyler to do dishes and sanitize baskets. Tim and his wife, Teresa, both were eager to have Tyler join their team. Their entire staff has been welcoming and so helpful to Tyler. He looks forward to going to work at Sobie’s every Friday!

Jordan St. John headshot
Coffee Retailer

Jordan St. John

I run Sweet Jordan’s, it’s a Bakery, Ice Cream and Coffee Shop and it’s probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before, because most employees are just like me…special. We all have something to contribute to society and our lives have value and meaning, just like everybody else. I was given less than 5% chance of living. I had major medical issues before I was born and my parents were told at 20 weeks that I had Down Syndrome. Some people even told my parents I should be aborted. My parents knew that God had a special plan for me. He is using my life to change my community and beyond. I believe I and others just like me can do anything, if given the opportunity. So, it is my prayer that people everywhere begin to Focus on Abilities Not Disabilities. Have Faith, Love Your Friends, Love Everyone, and Keep Chasing Your Dreams!

Kelley Rouse headshot

Kelley Rouse

Hi my name is Kelley and I am 21. I graduated from Riverview High School in 2017. I then attended Suncoast Technical College in the ACT program (acquiring community and transition skills ). Through STC I gained work experience in retail, custodial work and as a volunteer at a hospital. I got a job at Rise Coffee Co. and Nye’s Cream shop. I love making coffee and meeting people. I love Rise and Nye’s Coffee shop because they hire people with special abilities like me!

Jake Pratt headshot
Essential Worker

Jake Pratt

I am Jake Pratt, and I am from Vestavia Hills, Alabama. I am 21 years old and I am a Clemson graduate. I am a hard worker and I am organized. I was looking for a job and my neighbors, Joey and Wade, told me I should apply to UPS because they both work there. I was hired by UPS as a helper for the holidays. I have been training with my driver, Richard Wilson, and I am now working up to 8 hours per day. I love my job because I like to see people and tell them Happy Holidays. I like bringing them their packages they are waiting on. Richard is awesome and he has helped me learn everything about my job. I want to say thank you to UPS for hiring me. I hope my story makes people happy and that I can be a role model for kids with Down Syndrome.”

Jake has accomplished so much in his life and continues to raise awareness and break down barriers. During his senior year in high school, Jake gained national attention for earning a spot on the Vestavia Hills football team and scoring a touchdown. The video of that touchdown went viral and prompted many media appearances where Jake was able to promote inclusion and show the world that he, and others with Down Syndrome, are fully capable of achieving their dreams. Jake’s biggest dream was to attend college, and he was accepted into the Clemson LIFE program, where he thrived. Since graduation, Jake has been able to obtain two jobs. He works with the grounds department at a local golf course from 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM. Then, he is off to his second job with UPS delivering packages up to 8 hours per day. While Jake was initially hired by UPS as a seasonal position, his dedication and hard work have already earned accolades and Jake is hoping to transition to a more permanent role with the company. When Jake was born, our family was told many negative things, including the statement that Jake would “never be a functional member of society.” We were blessed to have many people from the Down Syndrome community who reached out to show support and provide hope for Jake’s future. This is why it is so important for us to pay it forward and allow Jake to shine like the superstar he is. Jake is strong, independent, and motivated and we are so thankful that UPS is willing to see his abilities as the individual that he is. Jake has a goal of living independently and we have no doubt that he will continue to make his dreams come true

Kristina Kinsey headshot
Coffee Retailer

Kristina Kinsey

A Fayetteville family has embraced their daughter’s disability and the result is Kristina’s Grinds and Grace, a mobile coffee cart. Kechia and Derrick Kinsey laid the foundation for the business and their son Derrick designed the logo. Aunt Tracee Kinsey oversees merchandising. The entire family is working together to create an opportunity for the star of the enterprise, Kristina, to shine. Kristina is a 2020 graduate of South View high school with a grand smile and a sweet disposition. Kristina also has Down Syndrome. Kechia has always encouraged and advocated for her daughter and now she is making plans to expand their business and provide employment opportunities for other people with special needs. Kristina’s coffee oasis offers coffee, pastries, and a moment of respite from a hectic day. Kristina serves her patrons with a joyful attitude and a twinkle in her eye. Kristina and Brianna Scott, her Disability Employment Specialist, serve coffee on Monday through Friday from 3:00pm – 5:00pm and Saturday from10:00 am until 12:00 at 817 Elm Street. Their mission statement is “Wherever you are planted, bloom with grace”. The next time you need to add some caffeine and a heavy dose of sweetness to your afternoon, stop by and see Kristina in full bloom

Raquel Caramello headshot

Raquel Caramello

Raquel Caramello is 16 years old, a model, speaker, business owner, and budding philanthropist and community advocate. She is the visionary and creator of her jewelry line – As the CEO and the designer and curator of her jewelry, Raquel chooses jewelry that will inspire others. “I want others to be inspired and feel positive and beautiful when they wear my jewelry.” It’s not just a business for her. The vision of the brand was inspired by bullying that Raquel endured when she was battling leukemia.
“When I lost my hair, some mean kids called me ugly and hideous because I was bald. I felt bad, and I don’t want anyone to feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful and unique.” Each piece of her jewelry comes with a handwritten note from Raquel that says “You are beautiful.” She has shared the message with over 10,000 people, sold close to $10,000 in jewelry, and donated over $7,000 to new Moms that have had a baby with Down syndrome, children with Cancer and their parents, or nurses and heroes in our community. All sharing the inspirational message of beauty, ability, and gratitude. If that wasn’t enough, Raquel raises money for local and national Down syndrome groups like the National Down Syndrome Society. She also supports Special Olympics, Best Buddies, Morning Star School, and Make-a-Wish. Together she has raised close to $8,000 for causes that mean a lot to her.
Raquel is a shining example that a diagnosis does not define her and despite challenges in life, there is beauty that you can find all over

Daniel Blackwell headshot

Daniel Blackwell

Daniel is 24 years old and lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Following in the footsteps of his six older siblings, he started working as soon as he could and now holds three jobs (!) At Chick-Fil-A, Daniel is dedicated to supporting his colleagues whether it is lifting heavy buckets of ice or cleaning tables and chairs. He has a reputation for noticing when any item needs refilling and keeps everyone stocked with that they need to serve customers. At Science Etc., Daniel assists the principal and educators and wears many tasks, helping out wherever they have a need! In 2018, Daniel returned to his Alma Mater, The Kinderfrogs School at Texas Christian University, as a Teacher Supported Aid. In this position, he prepares activities, engages with the students, helps keep the classroom clean and organized, and brings joy to educators and students alike with his smile and dance moves.
In addition to these, Daniel gained valuable experience working with Autin’s Underdawgs following graduation from High School!
If you ask Daniel what job is his favorite, he will say “all of it” and his colleagues and family readily affirm that statement.

At Kinderfrogs, Ms. Libby, the Lead Teacher and Daniel’s supervisor said: “Daniel is a valuable part of our classroom. He brings a ray of sunshine with him whenever he enters the room. He adores the children, and they adore him as well. Daniel’s work helps our classroom run more efficiently and more importantly, a lot more fun.

His boss at Science Etc. “Daniel Blackwell is…all things good about people. He is kind, helpful, happy, friendly, conscientious (above reproach conscientiousness), and diligent. His “chores” (that’s what we call work duties up here) are always accomplished on time and to the highest standard. When he is not here on his usual days, he is missed; his absence provokes a feeling that we missed out on something good, and is commented on by students, parents, and teachers alike. The fact that we can watch him happily dance his way through vacuuming this huge building is such a great gift to us and, as the parents are quick to point out, it is a tremendous lesson for the students here to learn. He never tells us he “can’t” and always tries out his new duties. (Did he tell you he was a coffee barista?) Is it any wonder we all love Wednesdays with Daniel?”
Lastly, we asked his boss at Chick-Fil-A: “He is joyful, dedicated, hard working. He brightens everyone’s day with his loving spirit and determination to do everything with excellence. We never have to worry about Daniel, he always gives 110%”

When Daniel is not working, you will find him bowling with his best friend, Jonny, spending time with his 14 nieces and nephews, and leaving smiles and laughter on the faces of all of his siblings, in-laws, and friends

Kei’Arie Tatum headshot

Kei’Arie Tatum

Kei’Arie “Angel Baby” Tatum has been working since the age of 3yrs old. Kei’Arie has been included into the entertainment industry as a phenomenal actress & model. Years of working is this field and upon completion of Kei’Arie’s amazing years of school, getting straight A’s, she graduated becoming a Boutique owner of Angel Babies Boutique. Kei’Arie enjoys helping others, spreading more love, awareness and inclusion for all Angel Babies (Special needs) in the world. She has gained the love, hearts and support of many and hopes to continue her liberating journey in respecting and caring for others while gaining more inclusion. Thank you for allowing the Angel Baby Team this platform to share a small token of Kei’Arie Tatum’s victories. Blessings to everyone! We always say “there is strength in numbers”.

-Team Angel Baby

Corissa Anderson headshot
Model and Actress

Corissa Anderson

Corissa was hired by state of Maryland as an actress to promote diversity and inclusion in the following two videos

She also was hired in the movie “game change” with Julianne Moore and she became a member of Screen actors guild (SAG). Corissa graduated from UMBC college and was an intern there at the Shriver center as an office assistant, assistive technology lab. Corissa also worked as dance instructor and day care worker who was laid off during the pandemic. Corissa has recently completed training to become a health messenger for her state. Corissa has a diverse background and is seeking ongoing growth in online/telework opportunities since the pandemic, that will allow her to grow in her goal of promoting diversity and inclusion to include someone with Down syndrome and Bi-racial diverse background in the media into the future

Maxine Simeone headshot

Maxine Simeone

My sparkle life started with headbands. I’ve loved sparkles my whole life, especially disco balls and sapphires, my birthstone. Oh, and of course–diamonds!
I’ve always worn headbands. But, one day, when I was about eight or nine years old, a gem fell off the headband I was wearing. I really liked that headband, so I took my glue gun and fixed the gem back in place.

Suddenly, I saw the vision of my future. I decided to make my own headbands, and I would put sparkles on everything. I’ve been making my own headbands ever since. At first, I made the headbands as gifts for my friends and family. Then, I started selling them at events, like fabulous galas or fundraisers. Today, I’m selling my creations in stores and on my Esty shop, Sparkles by Maxine. I’ve also been featured on the news, which was so cool. I am not shy at all around cameras and have a good time posing and showing off my headbands.

Being the owner of Sparkles by Maxine is wonderful because I love seeing people wear my headbands and hair clips and be happy. Also, it’s good for people to see a lady boss. I love selling my headbands because when you sparkle, you feel fun. You can let go in your mind and just be happy. So, I love to see people sparkle because I love to see them happy. Learn more here:

Ethan Holt headshot

Ethan Holt

Hi, my name is Ethan. I am 17 years old and I live in Florida. I am interested in sports, music, dancing and of course modeling! I swim for my high school swim team and for Special Olympics. I paddle board for Special Olympics too. I got my first job doing a print ad for a local floral shop. I am on Surf Style’s website and also in their store’s light box campaign, I was Surf Style’s first model with Down syndrome. Here’s my website if you have modeling and acting opportunities for me,!