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“This is my favorite job,” says Italian-born Sara Brinkman, 20, whose bright smile has been welcoming guests to Honey-Jam Café in Downers Grove since January. A first-year student in the District 99 Transition Program (through which she found her job), Sara was thrilled to be hired on as a regular employee at the café this summer. “When I did my interview, the owner sat down and talked to me politely. It’s my dream because I was thinking about saving my money.

“I’m the host,” she explains, “I give people their menus, fold silverware, help the waitresses with the food and drinks, and when customers bring me their receipts, I use the cash register to click the number for their table, and they give me their money or I slide their card. I love it here because they are so nice to me.”

Sara already had a bit of experience after working as a cashier at a camp store last summer. 

Born at a U.S. military base in Italy, Sara waited a long time to return to the land where she spent her first two years. With three sisters and a brother born at three other military bases in the U.S., Sara’s visit to her base was the last, because it was furthest away. “We went to Italy for Christmas last year,” she says. “That was my happiest moment because it is my favorite base, and I got to see where I was born and speak Italian.”

Sam loved looking through Sara’s scrapbook from her trip to Italy, and hearing all about her life! Here’s the rest of Sara’s interview:

How do you like the transition program, and what have you learned so far? "I like it so much! I work really hard. I clean the dishes, cook food, do housekeeping, sort recycling, fold the laundry, and clean the kitchen—wiping down the chairs and the tables. I love school because I love talking to my friends and to my teacher. The worst part is cleaning the garbage. It’s hard to focus on that because I have to be careful not to get the garbage on my hands.

"I also do a swimming lesson at the YMCA, or run on the treadmill."

Tell us about the classes you’ve taken at College of DuPage. "At COD, I am learning how to babysit kids in a childcare skills class. I also took a class for office skills. I’m really good at typing on computers, and I do like making copies. For that class I also had to take a test, and I worked really hard and practiced my flash cards on my computer to study for the test."

What do you like to do in your free time? "In high school, I did gymnastics all four years. I can do a back flip, a cartwheel, a handstand, and a floor routine. We just had a party in the cafeteria for my friend who just graduated. I do love gymnastics. I also do track and basketball. I love basketball. And I watch Netflix and YouTube—those are my favorite activities to do on my laptop."

What do you like to do with friends? "I like to hang out with my best friend from my gymnastics team. I love to see movies, or do Laser tag. I love my friends because they are sweet to me."

What’s the accomplishment of which you are most proud? "I am proud to be independent. I work hard so that when I go to college, I can clean my room and do my laundry and cook by myself. I need to be organized like my sister.  One of the things I love most is being independent—like when I took a plane trip by myself to see my aunt this summer."

Who are the most important people in your life and why? "I love my friends and my teachers. They are so unique. I love my family so much—my mom is the best. I also love my brother and sisters. They are my favorite siblings." 

Who do you admire? "My favorite is Justin Bieber. He’s so fun, and I love watching the DVD about him. 'Never Say Never' is my favorite show. I went to his concert for my birthday a few years ago–I started crying because I love him and I have his poster. I also went to a JoJo concert a couple months ago, and she bent down and touched my hand. That made me speechless!" 

What do you think people should know about you? "I’d like to continue to travel, to go to Germany with my cousin; and I also would like to go to Buenos Aires and maybe to Africa. Also, I do art, and I love to dance and sing."

What does Down syndrome mean to you? "It makes me happy and I love it. It makes me proud of myself." 

Tell us more about your goals for the future. "I need to focus on my school. I need to be kind and polite to everyone in my life. I would like to go college, and maybe get a job at an Italian pizza place!"