He's a student, a "sophomore" now, in Professor Doyle's class that meets in the Robotics lab. He absolutely loves the class and his fellow students and, of course, Professor Doyle. Taking classes at St. Mike's has added a major dimension to how he sees himself, to what he knows about the world as well as who he knows and socializes with.
Andrew is 23 and has Down Syndrome and is now a college student as he frequently tells me in his daily report to me of who and what he is. It always begins "I did hug Keith and Neil (two members of his favorite group, Celtic Thunder, whom he really did hug after their performance last year at the Flynn Theater in Burlington) and ends with "and I'm a college sophomore".
He takes from the class what is important to him. It's not a grade or a collection of assignments, papers or complex ideas. It's factual information about things that interest him related to the course content; facts he can recall at will in conversation and will always remember because he has a remarkable memory. It's the interactions with his fellow class mates; listening to their stories, helping solve a robotics problem, feeling the joy of success when a project finally works for his group.
But it's what he brings to the class that is, by all accounts, so wonderful; a boundless sense of optimism, an eternally positive outlook on life where there are no mountains too high or seas too wide. An individual challenge to each student in the class to look inside themselves and see who they really are, and then to grow in the knowledge that they have made a new friend, understood someone who thinks a little differently and, perhaps, overcome some assumptions.