By Maria Romano

For this project, my classmates and I were given a certain amount of freedom when choosing our subjects, but when I heard about Thomas, I knew immediately that I wanted him to be my focus. I had never taken a photography course before, and was admittedly only cursorily interested in education, but nonetheless I definitely felt a strong personal connection to the work that I did.

My little sister Lucia, who at 15 years of age really isn't that little anymore, also has Down syndrome. Thus, I am well-acquainted with the trials of navigating the state education system and constantly wondering what teacher, grade level, or school comes next. It's a constant battle, but Lucia has excelled and flourished in innumerable ways, and I am positive Thomas will too. In fact, there isn’t a doubt in my mind because I’ve seen first-hand what this remarkable 11-year-old is capable of.

Though a little wary of me at first, and not at all used to the idea of me clicking away beside him, a full semester and 2658 pictures later, he grew accustomed to and welcomed my presence, and I began to feel very close to Thomas. He is playful, clever, outright hilarious, and so uninhibitedly caring and loving. Many faculty members and students at George Watts Elementary know who Thomas Beckmann is, but my hope is that by watching this presentation, these individuals will have a better understanding of Thomas’ situation and will want to get to know him on a more personal level.

Remember, “friends don’t count chromosomes.” I’d like to thank Donna Beckmann for graciously working with me and the whole Beckmann family for letting me into their lives this semester. I’d also like to acknowledge my mother for her boundless support and encouragement.