Monday, May 2nd, 2022, the 4th and 5th graders started their week with a very special speaker, Ms. Rachel Barcellona. Rachel is a fierce advocate for autism awareness and has been quoted saying "Just because I have autism, doesn't mean I can't shine."
The ideals and advocacy Rachel shared with our students, parallel what they are learning at CDS with our education with a character-centered approach and IB curriculum. Rachel is even a Duke of Edinburgh recipient, which is a program CDS has recently incorporated in our upper school.
Rachel shared her journey with the CDS students, including how obstacles have only made her more determined to reach her goals. “Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.”
Rachel's accomplishments are many as she is a fashion model and beauty queen. She was the first woman on the spectrum to participate in the Miss Florida pageant, an on-air personality for The Chapters Rap with Steve Vaccaro, a New York-based radio program that promotes unity and diversity, has sung the national anthem in Madison Square Garden, and has spoken at the United Nations during World Autism Awareness Day. Rachel currently serves as a board member for C.A.R.D. USF, Unicorn Children's Foundation, Els for Autism Center of Excellence, Dyspraxia Foundation USA, and works with The Global Autism Project, Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism, and Victoria's Voice Foundation, all of which have impacted the lives of families everywhere. Read more about Rachel's mission and accomplishments on her website.
With the mission to provide individuals with autism and related disabilities and their families the opportunities and resources they may need to improve their quality of life, Ability Beyond Disability's purpose is inclusion for all!