Two teenagers with Down Syndrome will speak in Chapel Wednesday, Oct. 25 in honor of October as Down Syndrome Awareness month.
Ethan Etter, a 17-year-old homeschooled student, and Hope Martin, an 18-year-old homeschooled student, will be speaking in Moody to draw awareness to the normalcy of people with Down Syndrome.
Ethan and Hope were childhood friends before the Etter family moved to Florida. Cheryl Etter, Ethan’s mother, said the better they got to know the Martins, the more it became a family goal for the two to have a voice. Because Hope wants to attend ACU and has friends and siblings who attend ACU, the families of the students submitted speeches to the Office of Spiritual Development. During the summer, they learned Ethan and Hope would be given the opportunity to speak and began practicing their speeches.
“Sometimes people are scared of people with disabilities,” Cheryl said. “Angie and I have both felt like the more we get our kids out there, the more people will want to love them like a normal, typical kid.”
Angie Martin, Hope’s mother, said the families want Ethan and Hope to be an example of God’s image by sharing part of who they are and what they desire to be in the future.
“They just have something really valuable and really beautiful to share with the world,” Angie said. “Its kind of a broadening experience for everyone. Certainly for them, stretching them, but the people in the audience too.”
Allen Martin, Hope’s oldest brother, said it’s good that the speakers have Down Syndrome as opposed to a speaker talking about Down Syndrome.
“So often, we try to speak on behalf of people with special needs, assuming that they can’t do it themselves,” said Allen, sophomore English and political science major from Abilene. “In reality, they, like us, have plenty to say. I’m excited for Hope and Ethan to have a platform to do that, and I’m grateful to ACU for providing them with that.”
Hope’s other brother, Jackson Martin, freshman music performance major from Abilene, said he has been changed through living with someone who has Down Syndrome.
“The greatest lesson Hope has taught me is to see people truly as people rather than a compendium of situations,” Jackson said. “Frequently, people see disabled people and immediately think, ‘Oh, they’re disabled,’ but since I have grown up with Hope I can no longer think that. It never crosses my mind that she is disabled in any capacity; she is simply my spunky little sister.”
Both families said they are looking forward to Ethan and Hope communicating their unique messages and perspective of God to a welcoming audience.
“I don’t know that everyone will see it or hear it, but those who are able to will see an aspect of God’s nature that maybe they wont see every single day,” Angie said. “For part of God’s nature, a little bit different perspective, to be revealed. I never know how he’s going to reveal himself, but he always does.”