Ruby Plachta is, in many ways, an ordinary middle school student. She enjoys being in the band and playing trombone. She dreams of attending medical school to be a doctor.

Ruby, however, has a special trait that makes her different from other children. As her mother puts it, she is “rockin’ an extra chromosome.” 

Ruby was diagnosed with Down syndrome on the day she was born. Liz had never learned about Down syndrome; she had no idea of what the diagnosis meant for her family.

Liz fell in love with Ruby, however. As the months progressed, she found herself with a desire to study Down syndrome. She checked out many books from the library, eager to learn everything she could. “But you know what?” she said. 

“None of the books depicted this perfect little human that I watched grow every day….None of them talked about all the amazing things she was going to do with her life, the possibilities or even the opportunities that might be available.”

She shut the books, and—as she puts it—let Ruby be her guide. She observed how Ruby lived and thought. She never wavered in her confidence regarding Ruby’s potential.

Liz was confident that Ruby was an amazing, gifted child who would go on to do big things. “I knew I wanted Ruby to have all the same opportunities her big sister may have someday…including college.” Liz’s trust in Ruby’s potential spread to other children. She was passionate about all children with Down syndrome, and wanted to give them better opportunities.

When Ruby was about six months old, her parents had a discussion. Liz told her husband, “I think I want to help someone with Down syndrome go to college.” It wasn’t long before Ruby’s Rainbow, a nonprofit supporting students with disabilities, was born.

The vision of Ruby’s Rainbow is broad, but also succinct: “A world that celebrates people with Down syndrome and supports the pursuit of higher education, employment, acceptance and inclusion for people of all abilities.”

The organization provides students with scholarships to attend university. Recipients have gone on to complete various college programs. Some have even received Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, with at least one student working toward a Master’s.

Ruby’s Rainbow website boasts the following mission statement

“Supporting adult students with Down syndrome in achieving their dreams of higher education while spreading awareness of their capabilities and general awesomeness!! We provide college scholarships for students with Down syndrome attending post-secondary programs in the U.S., and shout their worth to the rooftops!!”

In 2022, the organization gave out 119 scholarships, totaling a $483,000 value. Recipients of the scholarships feel very blessed.

“Being in college means the world to me,” Michael, one recipient, stated. “I feel like I have been learning so much.”

Another recipient, Mia, graduated from a university before embarking on her journey as a sign language teacher. She currently teaches sign language to students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

“It’s an honor for me to help other people with Down syndrome be the best they can be,” Liz says. She herself did not attend college, but she understands the value of higher education.

Down syndrome is closely tied to abortion. Iceland, for example, has eradicated all cases of Down syndrome by aborting each baby diagnosed with it. Denmark looks to be following Iceland’s example.

Organizations like Ruby’s Rainbow are an example that babies with Down syndrome can step into bright futures. One thing is for certain—students with Down syndrome can be as gifted and special as their abled counterparts. The lives of Down syndrome patients have great potential, worth, and value.

Photo by Pavol Štugel on Unsplash

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.