MADISON ESSIG CHAMPIONS RIGHTS
By Isabella LaMadgeleine, Staff Writer
Madison Essig did not set out to be a trailblazer. She takes the same classes, eats in the same dining halls, and thinks of Mason as her home just like the rest of the student body. However, the rest of the students here at George Mason were expected to graduate from high school.
Essig was born with Down Syndrome. At the time of her birth, her parents were told that she may not be able to learn to read or write. Graduating from high school and attending college were completely out of the question.
But due to her determination, hard work, and active role in the classroom, Essig graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in June 2016. According to the Washington Post, she is believed to be the first student with Down Syndrome to graduate with a standard diploma from a Washington high school since the D.C. public school system began keeping digital records in 1996.
Essig is currently a sophomore in Mason’s Learning Into Future Environments (LIFE) program. She is also Mason LIFE’s representative in the student senate.
Before this semester, student government rules prevented Mason LIFE students from running for office. However, the student senate recently passed legislation to change the constitution so that students like Madison are allowed to run in campus elections.
“Mason is supposed to be an inclusive community, and they have not been fulfilling that,” Essig said.
“It is time for Mason to step up their game,” she said after the passage of the aptly named Madison’s Bill.
Due to the success of the senate bill, Essig plans to run for student senate in the upcoming spring election.
When asked why she wants to be involved with the student government here at Mason, Essig said that “I think it’s important to have a voice… student government has done a lot of great things, and I want to make sure that keeps going.”
After her college graduation, Essig hopes to become a professional advocate for people with disabilities.