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December 16, 2023
NDP student inspired by sister exemplifies school mission and works with local nonprofits for the benefit of individuals with Down syndrome.
On December 2, Notre Dame Prep sophomore Elisa Kim and several members of 100+ Women Who Care Motown, an organization of local women who support area charities, visited Gigi’s Playhouse in Southfield to tour the facility, meet with participants and present a check for $10,000.
Gigi’s Playhouse, which opened in 2019, is the local branch of an organization with more than 50 locations across the country that helps raise awareness for individuals with Down Syndrome for developmental play, therapy, sharing resources, and most importantly, the creation of important support networks for both kids and parents.
Kim's family has been associated with Gigi’s Playhouse since January of 2019. Her younger sister, Elena, has Down syndrome, and Elie and her family's participation in fundraising events provided a big boost in the opening of Gigi’s Playhouse almost five years ago and has been a part of its steady growth since then.
Involving the 100+ Women Who Care Motown organization was a perfect fit for Gigi's, according to Kim.
"After having multiple conversations with the founder of 100+ WWCM and several of its members, I was able to advocate for Gigi’s Playhouse at their November 2023 meeting," Kim said.
"For a small nonprofit like Gigi’s, the donations totaling $10,000 will make a huge impact on its ability to provide services and programs to individuals with Down syndrome in Metro Detroit," she added.
Elena clearly already is benefiting.
"Since Gigi's opening, Elena has participated in various programs offered there," Kim said. "I was inspired to become a volunteer after seeing how Elena was helped by the various programs and by observing how it gives her a community that supports and encourages her to be her best self."
Kim also went through volunteer training at the facility a couple of years ago, but due to the pandemic there was a lengthy suspension of activities. She's made up for that lost time and then some and has been an active volunteer for the past two years. She also volunteers at Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield, another organization that provides a range of services and programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
"I try to do what I can to promote awareness and acceptance of Down syndrome," she said. "All too often, people make assumptions about Elena and individuals like her because they wear their disability on their face. But part of being a Christian person, I believe, is to meet each person where they are in life, and to treat them with care and compassion."
She says her sister, without question, is someone who is so full of joy and love and that she doesn’t judge others at all based on appearance or background.
"I try to share that same openness when I am at Gigi’s and interacting with all the participants. I’ve learned so much from being involved there. Being a volunteer also gives me the opportunity to be an upright citizen by being more fully active with the local Down syndrome community and by bringing more awareness to the community at large."
Going forward, she is hopeful that her involvement with Gigi’s Playhouse encourages others to learn more about Down syndrome or other disabilities and to get more involved themselves.
Thriving at Notre Dame Prep
Meanwhile, Kim, who first came to Notre Dame Prep as a sixth grader, has thrived at the Oakland County Catholic school. She said a big reason she likes NDP is because it has so much to offer to its students compared to others.
"NDP gives students a unique experience that makes high school very memorable," she said. "My favorite classes so far have been art and freshman year English with Mr. Lilek. I've also been part of the swim team since freshman year and I participate in Michigan Youth In Government."
Among her other extracurriculars is the Culinary Club (she's the founder) that focuses on food and cooking, especially international cuisine. Kim's also a member of the school's Newspaper Club, the UNICEF Club, the Podcast Club and the Pre-Med Club.
A busy young lady, for sure, but not too busy to think about the next step in her academic journey.
"Although I am keeping my options open after graduation, I am interested in the University of Michigan, Georgetown University, where my sister, Aria NDP'23, goes to school, the University of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley," she said.
Only halfway through her second year of high school, Kim understandably isn't quite sure what she'll study in college or what a potential career might look like. But it's a fair bet that the world likely will benefit from whatever she does.
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.