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Speaker talks about living with Down syndrome

By Jennifer Koesling
Staff Reporter

Chris Burke, the actor who played Corky on “Life Goes On,” said Tuesday he has lived an interesting life because he thrust himself into acting and teaching despite what some people thought about his disability.

“When people say I can’t do something, I try even harder,” Burke said to an audience of TCU students, faculty, staff and families of Rise School students in recollection of a line he once had to memorize as an actor. Burke said it was this mentality that became his life strategy.

Chris Burke takes time out to play with Rise School student Kailey Anne Hernandez Tuesday night in the Student Center Ballroom. Burke spoke about his experiences on the television show “Life Goes On,” his involvement with the National Down Syndrome Society and how people should never give up on their dreams.

“I have a quality of life that came out a lot of love and lots of quality time that brought me to where I am today,” Burke said.
Burke said including people with Down syndrome into everyday activities is an important part of helping them feel like a part of society.

“This was happening at a time when college students were becoming more aware of what mental disabilities were and students supported me and included me,” Burke said.

Among members of the audience sat Burke’s father, Frank Burke, who spoke at the end of his son’s speech and helped answer questions.

Frank Burke said he wants to encourage parents to help their children to receive a good education.

“Training educators is key and I think it is evident at TCU that the students with special education degrees are receiving good preparation,” Frank Burke said.

Kathy Cooter, the director of the Rise School, presented a calendar of events to Chris Burke, after his speech in appreciation for his dedication to the cause.

Brad Thompson, fine arts chairman for Programming Council and a Best Buddies director, said PC and Best Buddies formally invited Rise School students and their families because they wanted them to be inspired by what Chris Burke said about living with Down syndrome.

“It is something we wanted to address on this campus because there is a huge need for volunteers, but it is more important that these families hear what he has to say because it may be an inspiration,” Thompson said.

Derek Westbrook, a Rise School parent, said he attended the event because his 1year-old son, Jakob, has Down syndrome and he wanted to hear Chris Burke speak about living with a mental disability.

“There are not many chances to hear a personal perspective on this,” Westbrook said.

Jennifer Koesling
j.c.koesling@student.tcu.edu

 

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