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"This Is My College:" Young Adults With Down Syndrome Increase Independence

Image of Jordan Caira, right, and Emma Pignone, left, posing in front of a bookcase.

Emma & Jordan, first year students and roommates at Berkshire Hills Music Academy (BHMA), are thrilled to be participating in a post-secondary program after completing their senior year of high school this past June. There are many post-secondary programs across the United States serving young adults with cognitive disabilities, providing a college-like atmosphere and experience.  For Emma & Jordan, having the opportunity to be in a college-like environment, like their peers, is a vital part of their identity.

As October is Down syndrome Awareness month, we took the opportunity to sit down with Jordan & Emma to discuss their experience at BHMA. What was important to both Emma & Jordan is that others view them not just as individuals with Down syndrome, but as individuals attending college for the first time, & how they are just like any other college-aged student.  The college experience of  living away from home, attending classes, finding new activities to enjoy, & making new friends are things that we can all relate to. Jordan & Emma have been a wonderful addition to the BHMA community, and we look forward to seeing their continued growth as young adults. 

What are your favorite things about BHMA?

Image of Jordan Caira, wearing a long-sleeve plaid shirt and dark pants sitting on her bed in her dorm room.

Jordan: I love to sing. I love Chorus. I learned how to cook fish! I love it. I go swimming every week. I made a lot of new friends. This is my college.

Emma: I like that I’ve made new friends and I have a lot of friends here. My favorite class is my voice lesson, and my favorite activity is going to the library. It’s different here than in high school, but it’s a good different. There are lots of classes and responsibilities.

How is it to be away from home?

Jordan: I miss home sometimes, but I also really like BHMA.

Emma: My roommate is awesome. We get along. I do miss my friends and family, but I have found new friends here!

What is important for people to know about you as an individual with Down


Image of Brett Beger, Carly Ziemba, Emma Pignone, and Brian Krutzler posing together against the side of a white building.

Jordan: Just treat me like Jordan. I am 19. That is important.

Emma: I’m a really nice and happy person, and I can get shy and overwhelmed, just like anyone else.

Post-secondary programs similar to BHMA are focused on increasing the functional living and vocational skills of their students, with the goal of maximizing their independence. What sets BHMA apart, and why Jordan & Emma chose to come here, is the music-infused curriculum. Jordan and Emma are both vocalists, and being in a program that honors their love of music and song is essential. In addition to studying music, Jordan & Emma are taking classes in cooking, banking/budgeting, social skills,  community independence, leisure management, room maintenance, fitness, and are participating in vocational internships. 


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