“My Down Syndrome is just misspelled it’s actually a “Do-Win” Syndrome, because Down Syndrome is not the only one thing I have, possibilities of my abilities are endless.”
Goodwill Ambassador for Education Equity & Peace
Shahzaib Lakhani known as “Zaib Lakhani” is the first selected IIPL Goodwill Ambassador and 19 year old a young man, and possess some extra ordinary skills to set entirely new exemplary standards for people who are denied inclusion in schools and community due to their unique profiles for any reasons. Zaib’s unique profile as an individual with Down Syndrome, also allows
world to witness his gifted strengths which are often systematically suppressed as a predetermination based on old medical testimonies of “ life with limitations” under that label, but experiencing Zaib and his journey towards his passion for advocacy for equity in educational opportunities and inclusion advocacy throughout the Virginia
USA opens a whole new chapter about eliminating mindsets and constant effort of seeking improvements despite of imposed limitations in one’s life.
Zaib is a student with Down’s syndrome, on a mission of redefining the world’s perception of students with Down Syndromes, as he has renamed his own identification when, he was refused to accept a certification of high school attendance only (A diploma without a success criteria). He demanded his School District to provide him the meaningful access to education with an equal participation to earn a Standard Diploma, which can allow him to access further and formal and higher education as he was on the track during his middle school years. As fighting for his rights, he also found out that it has been a common practice to exclude students with Down Syndrome, from such inclusion and success criteria as a predetermination of systematic discrimination against the student’s disability.
Zaib’s substantial efforts, and courageous voice for justice, equity, and access in educational rights for all students, he has overcome extraordinary obstacles within the school and community settings that have sought to contain him and limit his potentials just because his genetic statement was reading as “Down Syndrome” but all his adaptive, functional and academic achievements over the years were ignoredat much higher rate to put him in a box exclusion. Over couple of decades now, new researches are now working and showing, that people with Down Syndromes, are demonstrating a significant potential in life with in dependency, when provided proper nutritious care, care givers and educators to project their life activities without any kind of limits, support to provide higher standards of learning and provide inclusion with the same age peers without disabilities, but even with all said by researchers, families and advocates for people with Down Syndrome are still having to brawl with system, in order to seek access equal human rights and services as essential as education and basic care. This all can be perceived only if positive attitude with humility is practiced as a new norm locally, nationally and globally.
Zaib’s Journey until his middle school years, were quite flourishing and inclusive and Zaib was able to exited out of Middle school, earning Honor Roll and standard aligned academically as equally as his higher achieving peer without disability. Additionally despite of all health challenges he had which comes being an individual with Down Syndrome, he earned awards for maintaining perfect attendance, perfect record of no tardiness, best citizen’s award, also earned all his extracurricular activity to its fullest range and achievement of additional award of a “Presidential Award” in the school year of 2014-2015. .The highest performance of any student with Down Syndrome has achieved as well as extremely rare for student without disability to. Zaib’s Graduation Day Award Ceremony turned nothing less than an Oscar award moment when, Zaib’s name was announced and reaching to stage, the peers voices in audience of admiration was observed with standing ovation and his name was called out from the audience. It was nothing less than a magical moment and best day yet in Zaib’s life. The only sad part was that, Zaib’s achievements were earned in result of a dedicated team that worked outside the school system atparent’s cost to rise Zaib’s full potentials of learning, and in order to recognize in such achievements and benchmarks.
Right after exiting Middle school, Zaib soon identified, that he was going to face the barriers of systematic hold back as state and district were not open to educate him with his equal rights to participate in educational opportunities and are predetermined what Zaib can do and what he cannot despite of his record of achievements.
It was also come to realization, constraining to Zaib and his ability to reach full potential was also the mentality against his diagnosis of Down Syndrome and setting new standards of achievement for Student with Down Syndrome. A revolution in Virginia just began its height.
Zaib slowly finding opportunities have his voice out and speak about his identified issues regarding inequality in education, treatment of children with special needs of educational neglect and abuse of having them to clean up after their peers. Before we would know Zaib became a known face in media and an avid public speaker and now is gifted to be the voice of millions of students, that have no voice especially students with unique needs. Zaib Does Identify himself and others as people with “Unique Abilities” and disqualifies the word people with “Disability”
Through his voice, Zaib Lakhani is a force to be reckoned with, and is committed to teaching the world, that abilities are more powerful than disabilities. Zaib is supported by his dynamic team of local advocates known as “Momvocates” in the community as well as his loving and very committed family that has high standards for him and those Zaib speaks for, as he considers all people with unique needs around him, in community and world as his peers.
Zaib’s mom is also actively involved in supporting and speaking with him at many platforms to make sure the intense frequency of a voice from a parent’s side is also heard.
Zaib’s has achieved many battles regarding education equity and inclusion with an education process with meaningful “Diploma of high school” at a legislative level, to equal up the education standards just like his peers without disabilities and righteously. A human right!
Zaib’s dream for himself is to receive the education in scope of working with law makers and Justice so he can continue advocating for himself and others at a higher level around the world. It is quite painful and disturbing for Zaib to see many of his peers with Down Syndrome are living without a clear path for life after high school struggling to socialize, without a language memory, expressive language, with poor articulations and oral motor development is holding their life a hostage as they are emotionally suffering, mentally and physically more depended on their caretakers just because the proper plan of education and post-secondary goals weren’t drafted or followed during their school years by their educators and parents weren’t educated at that level to provide informed consent, or right to refuse meaningless criteria when set for their children in school systems or by other organizations.
To offer support within his limits, Zaib always tries to pass on many skills to uplift those individuals with unique needs, and their purpose of living life more enjoyable,
He shows them how to make their own meal and daily living skills at any given chance between his school and extracurricular life.
“Moving mountain is much easier compared to, moving that mountain in one’s mind as a barrier to suppress another human life need”
“Depriving another person in need or denying anyone’s human rights should be set as a legal consequence universally without an exception” ~Zahra Lakhani (Momvocate)
Following are additional activities, achievements and advocacy work done in such young age, and can be found online to see how powerful one mind and voice can be if believed with positivity.
about the Special Education challenges and requiring a reforming of educational practices to benefit students instead of holding back.
(ii) In 2017, In Zaib’s work has been identified and covered by Voice of America VOA in a Russian Language to educate and uplift other parents and students with Special Needs at the Children’s March in DC platform.
Modeling for Prom attires, at one of the biggest departmental store chains of Dillard’s in partners with “Prom Brings It” a nonprofit also featured in nationally known magazine called “Seventeen”
“We come to know God through looking in the eyes of other people” VA. Senator Tim Kain
Words could not describe more than the way it was said here, of how the humility should apply in one’s life for people with unique profile to identify the strengths to benefit them, and not just their weaknesses to load them with disadvantages
Shahzaib Lakhani’s Journey from” Raising Zaiby Baby” Achievements to “Educating Zaiby” now turning into “Justice for Zaib” allowed Zaib to speak for many students who are suffering without having to speak up for themselves and has become a legislative moment in Virginia through bill SB1288 currently passed General Assembly, passed in both House of legislators and now going through the final drafting to become an official law here in VA, that would protect students with only a meaningful and evidenced based educational process and prepare them for college and post-secondary education and not just an attendance certificate of breathing in school of becoming more vulnerable day by day. The Law would also be named after two students; Lee-Lakhani Law. Zaib’s advocacy now seeks not just for the student with special needs, but also for students with colors. A diversified approach.
Zaib’s aim to advance awareness globally regarding how critical it is for community to mandate Education Equity, provide necessary regulations and training to elevate
system and to make sure the energy is well created to move forward with progress in reaching meaningful goals, healthy life mentally, emotionally and all aspects of growth and prepare individuals to spread conceive learning and adaptive functioning growth. It is time to move way from finding weaknesses and more towards the process of sufficiency and development of “How can it be done for parents, educators and legislators to promote “ABILITIES.” There should be no more of what needs to be done, let’s move towards let go and do it evidently!
As Zaib making progress with his educational goals, he is having to tackle new challenges every single day and spending more time, energy and advocacy of himself and from his team, in order to bring new perspectives, and to reorganize the outlook on injustice, than just simply perusing for desired independent life as other students without special needs would Successfully.
Furthermore, while having the Unique journey of Equity in Education, Zaib has identified that in many countries, it is the “Education and Technology” literacy, that needs to be incorporated to address the needs of all learner, but do not have resources, or still gathering the support system. In many countries, finances are also the biggest hold back VS. some places it is politically controlled of how education will be allocated and practiced with the individuals of special needs and under privileged. Zaib’s and his team’s advocacy also suggests, the identification of true deficits of under unique labels such as; Autism, Down Syndrome, Asperger, Speech and Language or as simple as English a Second or Third Language factors, which each uniquely requires their own educational child study teams and individualized approach to rescue learning and developmental gaps. Formal academic education and technology literacy are the keys to build progression in each one of us universally even more than ever now since the pandemic, because to survive and to prevent rising issues for unwanted isolation, salvage mental and emotional health, professional stability and growth, one must be able to communicate through formal education only.
“Equity in Education and Technology Literacy” is the new survival in life post
pandemic, due to all interactions being conducted through technology only.
As Zaib continues, we hope that he can find your support to grow his voice even stronger and develop a better world for all who are fighting their educational and human rights, but still unheard.