October 25, 2013

Graduate of Next Steps program receives 2013 Self-Advocate Award

The Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee has honored Will McMillan, a 2013 graduate of Next Steps at Vanderbilt, with the 2013 Self-Advocate Award.

Will McMillan (Vanderbilt University)

The Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee honored Will McMillan with the 2013 Self-Advocate Award Oct. 19 during DSAMT’s annual Buddy Walk festivities.

McMillan is a 2013 graduate of Next Steps at Vanderbilt, a two-year postsecondary education program for young adults with intellectual disabilities. While at Vanderbilt, he completed internships with Vanderbilt Athletics, Vanderbilt Libraries, and the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations.

McMillan frequently presents on his life with Down syndrome to educators, parents and medical professionals on behalf of DSAMT. He participates in a variety of activities including Next Chapter Book Club and Best Buddies.

McMillan also played an active role in promoting the successful passage of Tennessee’s STEP UP Scholarship legislation, which expanded the Tennessee Lottery Scholarship to include students with intellectual and developmental disabilities entering eligible postsecondary education programs. His speech to the Tennessee House of Representatives at Down Syndrome Day on the Hill in 2013 resulted in a full standing ovation from the House.

“Since I have been in college, I’ve learned how to be more independent,” McMillan shared. “Now, I will have the tools for life that will help me prepare for work, independent living and traveling.”

He continued and urged legislators to pass the bill: “This is important because it will grant the opportunity for students like me to gain career and leadership skills and therefore become more self-reliant adults within our society. We want to work just like everyone else.”

story by Elizabeth Turner