By Kelie Kyser, Communications Director
Maya Harris is a vibrant young woman originally from Aurora, Colorado, who enjoys giving back to her community, spending time with family, cheerleading, playing sports and making new friends. This “girlie-girl” and trendsetter loves fashion, jewelry and all things pretty. Her own beauty is equally matched by her compassionate soul and exquisite personality.
I caught up with Maya over the summer to talk about her busy schedule and learn more about the outgoing lady with a knack for making others happy.
Maya is a 20-year-old self-advocate with Down syndrome. She currently attends Crossroads Transition Center in Aurora where she receives the support she needs to further explore her interest in helping others through community volunteer work. Through the program at Crossroads, Maya frequently volunteers with Children’s Hospital where she prepares the coffee cart in the waiting area and greets families. She has also volunteered at Morning Star Adult Day Program where she visited seniors and helped maintain the facility.
Maya is also an active member of The Arc Arapahoe & Douglas Counties’ Two Way Street Project, a group of self-advocates who meet monthly to engage in community outreach – helping organizations and educating others about individuals with disabilities. To date, Maya’s favorite outing with Two Way Street occurred when they visited The Life Care Center of Littleton. On that day, members of “The Street” and residents at The Center learned the value of intergenerational friendships. Which is perfect for Maya who thoroughly enjoys socializing with elders.
When she isn’t caring for others, Maya finds opportunities to teach and frequently helps The Arc of Aurora training law enforcement professionals by helping them understand how to interact with people with disabilities. Not all disabilities are immediately easy to detect and members of law enforcement face the daily challenge of assessing potential threats of danger and protecting the rights of citizens. People with disabilities are often at a disadvantage when they interact with first responders who may not have experience accommodating individuals with I/DD. Maya’s involvement during training sessions with the police department provides interns and seasoned professionals with knowledge they would never gain from a video or textbook.
Ms. Harris plays just as hard as she works and really enjoys participating in the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Dare to Cheer Camp where she can be found front and center during the half-time shows cheering the Denver Broncos to victory. She also competes with Special Olympics of Colorado playing basketball, soccer and bowling.
Family is very important to this young woman and she is fortunate to be surrounded by a loving support system that includes her very own cheerleaders in life – mom and dad. Maya is very proud of what she describes as a “huge family” full of cousins, aunts, and uncles. But the person that makes her entire face light up is her older brother Marcus, a firefighter in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Maya looks forward to turning 21 next year and will celebrate the milestone birthday in January. It’s safe to assume she will be surrounded by friends and of course, family.