Self advocate Sheri Brynard from South Africa to become DSi Ambassador

Sat, 01/01/2011

Down Syndrome International is delighted to announce that Sheri Brynard, a 28 year old teacher and self advocate from Bloemfontein, South Africa, has agreed to become a DSi Ambassador. Sheri has Down syndrome, but from an early age never let this get in the way of success. Sheri was accepted into mainstream school and thrived there, eventually becoming class captain, despite having to overcome prejudices and mocking among her peers in the early years. At school Sheri excelled in drama, and won the school’s honorary medal for drama achievements nationally. After school Sheri decided to further her studies at the Motheo FET College in Bloemfontein, where she was the first and only student with Down syndrome to be accepted onto a course. Here she received a tertiary diploma without any exemptions, a remarkable achievement. She received no extra support from the College and in fact, many of her classes were even presented in English, which is not her first language. At Sheri’s diploma ceremony in 2009, she received a standing ovation from the entire packed City Hall audience, the people in attendance recognising her perseverance against the odds. Sheri is now appointed as a qualified assistant teacher at a pre-primary school in Bloemfontein, where she thrives on helping children with learning difficulties. Sheri assists the teacher of the class generally, but also presents lessons on her own, in which she integrates the different learning concepts she was taught during her years at college. Sheri's achievements are not simply academic and include ballet and piano, but her most significant natural talent is Speech and Drama. Sheri has won various awards provincially and nationally since the age of 10. During her last 3 years in school, she obtained an average of 98% for the various items she entered into a national competition for students without intellectual disabilities. Sheri started speaking publicly when she was 14 years old, but since she appeared on national television she has been invited to deliver motivational speeches all over South Africa. She has been breaking down barriers and preconceptions about people with Down syndrome wherever she goes. Numerous parents have changed their attitudes towards their children with Down syndrome after seeing Sheri and listening to her speeches. Sheri has won many awards including Sanlam’s ‘Achiever of the Year’ award in 1999. In 2009 she won a special academic award at the Motheo FET College diploma ceremony because of her academic achievements there. In September 2009 she received the highest prestige award from Down Syndrome South Africa for the highest academic achievement received by a student with Down syndrome in South Africa. In May 2010 she was nominated as Bloemfonteiner of the year because of the ambassador she is for the city of Bloemfontein. Sheri has recently started to attend English classes to try to improve her English, which will in turn improve her ability to communicate with other people. She has toured many countries, including Egypt, Turkey, England, Ireland, Scotland and many more. These tours have broadened her horizons and developed her skills and knowledge. She regularly attends courses and reads books related to the specific teaching skills required to teach students with learning disabilities. Sheri has also started to help conduct self advocacy workshops in Bloemfontein. She hopes to reach more people with Down syndrome to share with them the knowledge that they can all be proud of who they are. She knows that she has her limitations, but who of us does not have them? Her dream is to make a difference in people’s lives and with the help of Down Syndrome South Africa she has already had a lot of opportunities to achieve her goals and live her dream. Being an ambassador for people with Down syndrome in South Africa means a lot to her, especially since it is another stepping stone in the path of conquering her dream. As Sheri says, ”Life is a journey we all have to travel. Sometimes the journey is easy and sometimes it is hard. We cannot change some of our circumstances, but we can change the way we look at them. One must always make the best of who you are and not compare you to other people”. She lives the words of Nelson Mandela, “You are the master of your destiny and you are the captain of your soul”. Down Syndrome International is honoured that Sheri has agreed to become a DSi Ambassador and we look forward to working with her to help improve the lives of people with Down syndrome in South Africa and worldwide.