This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.
When NEWS10 ABC morning/noon anchor Christina Arangio became pregnant with her son, Luke, she had no idea that he would open her eyes to a whole world—one that she’d become an advocate for in record time.
“He was diagnosed with Down Syndrome before he was born,” she says. “We had the tests done, and then I got the call in the newsroom. We were always full speed ahead, but I needed information about this world I was about to enter.”
Arangio’s call to the Center for Disability Services’ Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center was a game-changer. Before she even gave birth, she was visiting other parents of kids with Down Syndrome (DS) in their homes, and learning the importance of integrating Luke into mainstream education as soon as he started school. “He’s been mainstreamed with his typical peers since day one of preschool,” she says of Luke, now a 12-year-old sixth grader. “It’s not easy, but you have the support of the other parents.”
Aim High’s programs help teachers with DS students in their classrooms, most crucially by creating ready-to-go modified lessons. This might include materials with fewer words and more visuals, or simplified versions of more complex subjects. “The kids with DS grasp the big idea from the lesson, and get to interact in the class with their peers,” Arangio says. “The law states that they have the right to be in the classroom, but teachers are slammed and might not have the know-how.”
One young adult with DS who Arangio knows from the Aim High community got a job he wanted after a few failed attempts, because he ran into a former mainstream schoolmate working at the establishment who then recommended him. It’s stories like these that keep Arangio fighting for integrated education.
“My goal is for Luke to have every opportunity to get married, go to college—do whatever he wants to do,” she says. “The future is so bright.”