Student project sheds light on Down syndrome

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

April 6, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 5, 2013 at 11:06 p.m.

What started out as a high school project became a unlikely friendship.

Two weeks before her Texas Performance Standards Project was due, Breanna Takacs, 17, was working on her assignment focused on Down syndrome.

All she needed was someone with the genetic disorder to feature in her project.

That was when her mother, Janice Takacs, 57, found someone through her Zumba class.

A few days later, Brock Murray, 3, and the Victoria West High School junior were becoming fast friends through a series of note cards and surprise high-fives.

"It's Just Another Chromosome," Breanna's project, screened at the Victoria school district's TPSP showcase in late March.

Other projects showcased at the event included a rap video about the dangers of texting and driving by West senior Heather Donovan and an in-depth look at migraines by West freshman Hayden Nelson.

Breanna placed first in her grade level and districtwide.

"I picked Down syndrome because it's something I'm interested in because of the way it affects the brain," Breanna said. "I've had a lot of fun putting the project together with him."

Brock wheeled a toy truck alongside his living room fireplace as "Blue's Clues" played in the background.

"He's really playful and loves to read a lot," Breanna said. "I just wanted to show that people with Down syndrome are persons, too."

Brock's face suddenly began to redden, and the toddler let out a gargle of words.

"I speak Brockasaurus," said Brock's mother, Stacy Murray, 36. "He wants water."

Days after the screening of Breanna's project, the mother said her co-workers mentioned seeing her son in the project and congratulated her on the spread of awareness about Down syndrome.

In October, the family participated in a Buddy Walk through an area Down syndrome association and raised more than $5,000 from their team alone.

Murray said no one in her family or her husband's has had Down syndrome, which made Brock's diagnosis an even bigger shock.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that about one of every 691 babies born in the United States is diagnosed with Down syndrome each year.

"I remember feeling really depressed when the doctor first told me he had Down's," the mother said through teary eyes. "Alan was the one that stayed positive and became proactive about getting the right information we needed."

The mother said it wasn't until Brock's fifth day of life that the doctors told them their son had an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Murray smiled and waved at the West junior and her mother as they walked through their glass-paned, front screen door.

"He's just like everybody else," Murray said. "I think that's what everybody needs to know about people with Down syndrome: They're just like us."



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