Michigan State University recognizes Disability Pride Month in October. It’s also Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we are highlighting MSU’s year round partnership with the Capital Area Down Syndrome Association, or CADSA, a nonprofit that supports people with Down syndrome and their families in Mid-Michigan.
In addition to working with student, staff, faculty and varsity teams, the MSU Tennis Center is open to the public and offers the community opportunities to hold activities that add recreational value. MSU Head Tennis Professional Diane Selke holds tennis lessons in partnership with CADSA to provide students with Down syndrome an opportunity to learn about the sport of tennis, practice new skills, work together and have fun.
Selke has over 43 years of experience teaching tennis and is a former MSU women’s tennis team student-athlete. In 2018, she started partnering with CADSA to teach tennis. The program started with six students and has since grown to over twelve participants. Selke kept the program going through COVID with weekly Zoom meetings.
"It has been an incredibly rewarding experience working with the Capital Area Down Syndrome Association and seeing the students shine every week," said Selke.
One of the goals is to prepare participants to play tennis in the Special Olympics. Although not everyone will participate, all are enjoying learning a new skillset.
From laughs to practicing drills to learning the rules of gameplay, the monthly lessons demonstrate the importance of advocacy, service and community building while also celebrating the growth and accomplishments of the students. With the help and expansion of partnerships like this one, individuals with Down syndrome can gain access to meaningful and memorable opportunities to interact within our community and with peers to develop new skills in engaging and enriching ways.
In addition to offering these lessons, MSU also has partnered with CADSA in support of its annual Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk, which took place in early October, raising funds and awareness for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
Photography by Derrick L. Turner.