Hannah Rowland finds a role at Partners in Learning
Denise Rowland helped her daughter with the search, taking her to fill out applications at several businesses. But she quickly realized it could prove difficult finding Hannah a job.
Although she had held several internships during high school, Denise found out the fact that Hannah has Down syndrome could make her seem a liability to some companies and they simply wouldn't hire her.
That's when Denise turned to Norma Honeycutt, the executive director of Partners in Learning Child Development Center.
"I called to see if she could give me any leads because Hannah wanted to work a few hours a week, and Norma said she would love to have her there," Denise said.
It seemed like a logical fit as Hannah had helped Denise in the children's classroom during church for years.
"She's always been very nurturing and motherly," she said. "She's a hard worker and very determined, so I knew she would be good at any job."
Hannah started volunteering at Partners in Learning about three weeks ago, showing up faithfully every Monday and Friday.
She's been working as an assistant in Lori Wong's pre-kindergarten classroom, reading to students and serving as a playmate when it's time to let loose and have some fun.
"She loves the kids and they are very comfortable around her," Wong said. "I can tell that she looks forward to coming here."
Honeycutt said it seemed like a no-brainer that Hannah would fit in at Partners in Learning, which works with both disabled and typically developing children.
"I really wanted Hannah here; she adds to the diversity of our program," she said. "We have a lot of children with Down syndrome, and she's really encouraging for their families."
Jill Wagoner, the mother of a 3-year-old with Down syndrome who attends Partners, said it's fantastic to see an adult with the condition volunteering at the center.
"For families of children with special needs it's great to have a reminder that we should not set limits or conditions on our children's future potential, but rather focus on providing the best developmental opportunities for them today and wait to see what the future will bring," she said. "Hannah is a great role model for not only our children with special needs but all children at the center."
Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.
Honeycutt placed Hannah in Wong's classroom because she knew the two would click.
"I have a sister with Down syndrome - they are a lot alike, very playful," Wong said. "It's great to see her interacting with the kids."
Wong said Hannah learns a lot by mimicking her actions.
But she also brings her own unique flavor to the classroom.
"She loves music, there's no doubt about that," Wong said. "Whenever music comes on she started marching and leading the children."
Honeycutt said Hannah takes initiatives to be as helpful as possible, pitching in wherever needed.
"She really tries to get down on the children's level," she said. "She's a great role model in the classroom."
Honeycutt said she believes having Hannah in the classroom and on the playground at Partners in Learning will help the center's students be more open-minded in the future."That really is our hope for society, that these children will be accepting of everyone no matter what," she said. "We are all more like than different."
Hannah spends Wednesday, Thursday and Friday attending life skills classes at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Honeycutt said by going to college and working at Partners, Hannah is breaking stereotypes.
"For a long time, adults with Down syndrome haven't been accepted into the general population," she said. "It's been tough because they couldn't find jobs or go to college.
"But things are slowly but surely starting to change."
Hannah defied another stereotype earlier this year when she was named prom queen at Carson.
"She had a lot of support and friends at the school," Rowland said. "I'm very thankful for that."
Although there have been challenges along the way, Rowland has fought to make sure Hannah lives the most normal life possible.
"I've tried to keep her active and involved with the public," she said. "I didn't want to put limits on her because she has down syndrome."
Volunteering at Partners in Learning has been a good experience for Hannah, Rowland said.
"She's learning independence and responsibility," she said. "It's a huge learning process for her, but an enjoyable one.
"It's a really exciting time for her - he's just loving life."
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.