Education

Student of the Week: Belleville East senior keeps busy with seven sports, five plays

Belleville East senior busy with 7 sports, 5 plays

Maddie Harnar has Down syndrome, but she doesn't let it slow her down as the Belleville East senior participates in seven sports and five plays.
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Maddie Harnar has Down syndrome, but she doesn't let it slow her down as the Belleville East senior participates in seven sports and five plays.

As she ticks off the names of her friends, you wonder if Maddie Harnar is leaving out anyone on the Belleville East roster.

The Belleville East senior turned 18 on Saturday, and last week was hoping for a cake with Hannah Montana and balloons for her birthday party. Maddie is hoping for an Ella King CD, and the “Frozen” movie as gifts. She was looking forward to a day with friends, and an evening with more friends at a sports banquet.

Maddie plays seven sports and performs in the school plays. The most recent play, “Beauty and the Beast,” in which she played a villager and a salt shaker, has her still smiling weeks afterward.

“I really love it very much,” she said.

Like many other Belleville East seniors, Maddie loves hanging out with her friends and listening to music. She has her favorite class — choir — and her favorite activity — singing.

Maddie has Down syndrome, which means she has an extra chromosome. People with Down syndrome may have mild to moderate impairments, and may have physical, speech and developmental therapies. She and her parents are also involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, and the Parent Teacher Organization for Exceptional Children.

Maddie’s social calendar is incredibly busy, and her mother, Kathy, often shuttles her from one activity to the next.

“It’s all good and I love it,” Kathy said of Maddie’s singing lessons, play activities and Special Olympics sports.

“She’s a constant force of happiness in my life,” said her sister, Mallory, who lives in Chicago. “She’s got an energy.”

“I thought I was a busy high school student, and hearing all the things that she’s doing. … she’s so active,” Mallory said.

Harnar’s goal for her daughter is that Maddie eventually lives independently. She says her daughter, and others who have Down syndrome, are capable of doing so.

“Kiddos with disabilities should be pushed,” she said, saying that the “push” is not a hard one.

“(People) shouldn’t presume a kiddo can’t do something. Assume they can and work from there.”

Q: What are you doing after graduation?

A: “Going to go to Bridges. I’m going to help people (do their) work.” (Bridges is a program next to the Belleville West campus, where students learn life skills.)

Q: Do you have jobs at home?

A: “On Thursdays I take out the trash.”

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: “When I grow up, I want to be a music teacher.”

Q: What’s your favorite musical?

A: “Beauty and the Beast.”

Q: What characters were you in “Beauty and the Beast”?

A: “A villager and a salt shaker.”

Q: Could you see the audience? What did they think of the musical?

A: “It was awesome. They liked it.”

Q: What other plays have you been in?

A: “‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘Seussical,’ ‘Shrek’.”

Meet Maddie Harnar:

  • Age: 18
  • School: Senior at Belleville East
  • Family: Mom Kathy; dad Joe and big sister Mallory, 26
  • Favorite subjects: Choir and math. “I like to count to 10,” she says.
  • Favorite book: “Mallory on the Move” by Laurie B. Friedman
  • Sports: gymnastics, swimming, golf, bowling, volleyball, soccer, basketball and many Special Olympics events
  • Organizations: member of the Parent Teacher Organization for Exceptional Children; Helping Other People Excel Club at Belleville East; Totally Awesome Girlfriends Group, a dance club in St. Louis; and Stories on Stages at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis
  • Lessons: Voice lessons at Accent Music Lessons in Swansea
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