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Making the Headlines/ Lee Jones

by Will Durman

Article reprinted with permission from Graceland University

When Lee Jones attended the 25th Silver Jubilee Convention of the National Down Syndrome Congress in Phoenix, Arizona last year, he received much more at the banquet than a good meal. It was there that he learned he was the recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award. The national award is given to individuals who act to cause positive public awareness and who work as leaders and role models. "It came as a total surprise," Lee said. "I felt really great about it."

As a person with Down Syndrome, Lee strives to keep busy and involved in campus life, demonstrating the importance of self-worth and determination. Lee is well known on campus, avidly attending C.O.S.A. events, working backstage during play production, lifting weights everyday, and frequenting Choices.

As a leader, Lee especially prizes keepings others' morale high. "I talk to the freshman a lot, try to keep them motivated," he said. According to Orion House President Keith Sundberg, Lee is a very positive influence; "He's there with us at house meetings and functions, bringing lightness to the conversation, helping look out for our house brothers."

Lee's own struggles provide him with the inspiration to help others with their struggles. Through school, Lee has encountered problems with some technical classes, especially mathematics. To work through them, Lee says that he makes a daily effort to "take good, careful, notes, work with tutors, and accept the help of my friends." The Chance Program has been invaluable to him as well. The hard work had paid off; next year, Lee will be a senior working towards a recreation major and a theatre minor. To others struggling with school, Lee has this to say: "DON'T GIVE UP, I know it's tough but I want them to stick with it and get through. Stay in school, It's the best way to find a job after college."

Coming from Kansas City, Missouri, Lee's own decision to come to Graceland was based on several reasons, but mainly because of the welcome he received here.

"When I first came here, I didn't know anybody at all. But then everyone started saying "Hi!" to me, I thought 'whoa', everybody is saying "Hi!" to me and they don't know me yet. I thought, well, this would be a good school to go to," he exclaimed. According to Lee, this welcome never withers. "Everybody's friendly, the staff member's too. The staff members are great. I talk to them every day."

Lee says that he is almost always met with warmth and friendliness on campus. Occasionally, there are people who don't know about Down Syndrome, or are scared to talk to him. Concerning this, Lee stresses that "I'm just like anybody else, treat me like anybody else. I have a disability, but don't look down on me, I want to be seen as the person that I am."

Through amiability, helpfulness, and dedication, Lee Jones shows through as an important part of campus and a worthy recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award.