Next Steps first-year Hannah Humes publishes poem in upcoming novel

Hannah Humes, public speaker and soon-to-be published author, wants you to know about Down Syndrome Awareness Month


First-year Hannah Humes in front of The Susan Gray School for Children (Marcy Humes)

Nora Smith, Opinion Deputy

Although Hannah Humes hasn’t had much time yet at Vanderbilt, given that this is her first year the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program (Next Steps), her impact is already being noticed by those around her. With the help of her mom, Marcy Humes, Hannah recently wrote a poem titled “Goal(s) in Common” which is soon to be published by the University of Minnesota Press. 

The poem is about her journey through inclusive education, which has followed Hannah, as someone with Down Syndrome, over the course of relocations to several different states and throughout her education, Marcy said. 

In that journey of education, Hannah has become a well-practiced public speaker. From presenting in front of her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting of over 40 professionals, to administering a 45-minute workshop on music inclusion to the National Down Syndrome Congress, to a giving TEDx talk in May 2019 with her 11th grade intervention specialist Bud Strudhoff, Hannah has spread her impressive message of inclusion to many audiences. 

Marcy said Hannah’s passion for public speaking began around 5th grade, and Hannah even drew other friends into her public speaking as they would present short speeches over the school loudspeaker together. 

According to a podcast interview with Hannah and Marcy at Hannah’s high school, Mason High School in Mason, OH, Hannah was the first person with Down syndrome to be a part of the high school’s Teaching Academy, a group for aspiring teachers. The podcast host referred to Hannah as a “trailblazer” as she was also the first person with an intellectual disability to work at the school’s store, the “Comet Zone,” in addition to being the first person with Down syndrome to be inducted into the school’s Young Women’s National Honors Society. After graduating from Mason, Hannah was even featured in a People magazine article titled, “Meet 6 Outstanding High School Seniors Committed to Improving Their Communities and the World.”

Throughout all of her speeches and accomplishments, Hannah is committed to improving the world by pushing one overarching message: inclusion works. Her soon-to-be-published poem focuses on her journey of inclusion and has been shared within the Next Steps community through emails and friends in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. 

Hannah said that Down Syndrome Awareness Month is special to her and that anyone can celebrate the month simply by “being a happy person.” 

“October is Down syndrome awareness month to raise awareness of Down syndrome and to educate for inclusion of people with Down syndrome,” Hannah said. “It’s a time to celebrate people with Down syndrome. They have abilities, likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams. We can go to school and go to college. We can get married, have careers and make a difference.”

Despite all of her accomplishments, Hannah is not finished. She wants to continue speaking and making a difference by educating others on the benefits of inclusive education, and she said she hopes to one day give a TEDx talk at Vanderbilt. 

“I don’t need easy or optional,” said Hannah. “Just opportunity.”