Upside to Down

Molly Drinkwater recently took to a stage and in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 peers proudly declared “people with Down syndrome have hopes, dreams and interests … just like you.”

The thought of addressing such a large cohort of teens would be enough to make most people tremble, but not Molly. Standing proudly in rainbow-coloured socks, she relished the opportunity to educate her friends and teachers at St Francis Xavier's College, Hamilton, about Down syndrome, dazzling them with her powerful words and infectious zest for life.

Molly's speech came on the eve of World Down Syndrome Day, 21 March, which aims to raise money and awareness for people with Down syndrome and "help them live normal lives, learn and achieve their goals.”

“Thank you to those wearing crazy socks today,” she said, with her parents watching on. “This is to represent that people with Down syndrome are all diverse; we have different goals, interests and abilities.”

Beyond the school assembly, the Year 12 student inspires all those she comes across. A week after Molly's presentation, walking through the college playground for her Aurora photo shoot, countless students and staff came up to say “hello”. When you're around Molly, you get the sense you're in the presence of greatness.

Julia Lederwasch, Assistant Principal at St Francis Xavier's College, said Molly had an innate ability to gel a community.

“If anyone is having a bad day, you know to go and have a chat with Molly,” Ms Lederwasch said. “She radiates positivity.”

Year 12 student Elliah Bertoncello echoes the sentiment. She first met Molly in Year 7 when they attended St Pius X High School, Adamstown, together.

“Molly is so caring and loves to look after everyone else,” Elliah said. “She always puts herself forward and gets involved. We could all learn a lot from Molly about having a go.”

With these stellar qualities, it is not surprising Molly was elected as one of the college's tutor group leaders in 2021.

“It makes me very proud,” she said of the leadership responsibilities bestowed on her.

Outside of her school commitments, Molly is an active member of the broader Newcastle community and can be found shooting hoops on a basketball court, swimming laps at the local pool, serving hits at table tennis or dancing to her favourite songs.

“People with Down syndrome want the same chances as everyone else,” she said. “We want to be included in all parts of life.”

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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