The road we travel from our intentions to our successes is lined with helping hands to ease the way. No one knows this more than Sophia Whittingham, who refuses to let Down syndrome define her. She’s completed three years of community college and a UNLV summer program, but she’s far from done. Her next steps are in the college's Project F.O.C.U.S program, a comprehensive post-secondary education program geared towards college-aged students with intellectual and or developmental disabilities that provides inclusive, accessible, holistic career and educational programming to promote self-determination and build job readiness skills through meaningful community partnerships.
Determined to move out and begin living a more independent lifestyle by her 23rd birthday, Sophia applied herself to her studies with courses balancing her goals and hobbies -- dancing, singing and writing. She is currently taking a hip hop seminar course and a focused daily living class, giving her a thrilling new adventure in her first semester on campus. The focused daily living course is unique to Project F.O.C.U.S and is tailored to Sophia’s individual environment through person-centered lesson plans. Through it she develops functional independent living, social and self-determination skills as she participates in inclusive academic and campus opportunities. Off campus, Sophia aspires to work with French designer Anne Fontain at her Caesars Palace location, taking on a fashion collaboration season design for the models.
Surrounding herself with supportive friends, family, and community members is key to her progress. Sophia's commitment to her goals and future success are unmistakable. Most recently, she was awarded the Ruby’s Rainbow Troy Drake Scholarship Award, which, in addition to acknowledging her accomplishments, will help to significantly cover her school costs. Sophia was incredibly happy, excited, and proud to receive this award. She knows that paying it forward by volunteering with Opportunity Village, local food pantries and the Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada is a great way to show her gratitude.
Originally from California, Sophia has acclimated to her new Las Vegas community. She loves volunteering alongside her dad, who is on the board and planning committee for the Las Vegas chapter of Best Buddies, an organization offering one-on-one friendship, integrated employment opportunities, and leadership development programs for individuals with and without various disabilities, where she’s made close friends. When she is not busy with school and work, she enjoys hanging out with friends and building on these relationships.
Her drive to use her unique life experiences to reach her goals reminds us to push past limitations and thrive.
Article by Kia Cummings