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The City Journals

Emily Arthur sets no limit for herself

May 07, 2018 03:02PM ● By City Journals Staff

Emily Arthur holding her acceptance letter to the Aggies Elevated program at Utah State University. (Photo/Julie Arthur)

By Christy Jepson | [email protected]

Emily Arthur has never put limits on herself regarding what she can accomplish. As a senior at Corner Canyon High School, and a girl with Down syndrome, Emily continues to show the world she can do anything she sets her mind to.

This past school year she has been a member of the cheer squad, participated in the school talent show, has planned activities and service projects for the school club she started, volunteers at the Curiosity Museum at Thanksgiving Point and on April 14 was awarded first runner up in the Utah Miss Amazing Pageant. Nothing appears to stop Emily from enjoying life and embracing any opportunity that comes her way.  

“Emily is easily one of the most confident people I know. She doesn’t care what others think of her, she wants to share her gifts with the world,” said Julie Arthur, Emily’s mother.

For any high school student, juggling all these activities could be overwhelming, but for Emily it is just what she likes to do.      

“One of my biggest accomplishments is working hard to get good grades so I could get into college,” Emily said. “I want to be independent and responsible.” She has been on the Honor Roll most semesters at Corner Canyon.

At the end of February, Emily found out she was accepted into the Aggies Elevated program, an on-campus college program at Utah State that is for students with intellectual disabilities. This program helps young adults gain important independence and job skills and is a good foundation if they choose to continue working on a bachelor’s degree. Getting into this competitive program was a huge accomplishment for Emily. “I look forward to studying hard and never giving up in this program,” said Emily.

Over the past month, Emily was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from Mountain America Credit Union for all her accomplishments and Canyons School District also recognized her for her outstanding achievements throughout high school and for being one of the few students to get into the Aggies Elevated program. It sounds like all her hard work at school is paying off.  

Emily was born 18 years ago in York, Pennsylvania. According to her mother she was a very sweet, easy-going baby. Although not hitting traditional milestones, Emily started figuring out how to do things her own way. Even though she didn’t sit up by herself until around one and walking until after her third birthday she learned to get around by what her mom called “a mean commando crawl” and used sign language until her speech was more clear.

“Emily has always been very determined to learn to do new things. When she was in preschool they had a set of monkey bars and she wanted to learn to cross them hand over hand like all the other kids could. She practiced and practiced until she had bleeding blisters on her palms and then just asked for Band-Aids to cover them up and keep trying,” said Julie.

As elementary school approached, her school in Pennsylvania put no limits on Emily’s academic performance. According to her mom, the school was very open and willing to let Emily be placed in a regular classroom with support from an aide to see how she would do.

“I believe those early school experiences of teachers having high expectations and not limiting her helped shape the student and person she has become today,” said Julie. 

After moving from Pennsylvania to Utah nearly eight years ago, the academic path for Emily was altered with Utah’s education plan for children with intellectual disabilities being structured differently.

“At first the school district insisted that Emily be placed in a life skills cluster class and was limited to what she was going to be taught or who she would be in class with. But again, the persistent and determined Emily insisted that she not be placed in a classroom with just students with disabilities,” said Julie. Despite these challenges, Emily continued to grow academically and now is about to receive her high school diploma next month. 

So whether it’s being on stage in an evening gown representing young women with disabilities at the Utah Miss Amazing pageant, or singing and dancing her heart out at the school talent show, or quietly serving others in her neighborhood, Emily enjoys doing it all.     

Last fall, she wrote on her Facebook page: “I love having Down syndrome it makes me special and it makes me smile. I love being around people with Down syndrome. I love hanging out with them. I just love having a disability like Down syndrome. I love my life just the way I am.”