Same As U student earns enrichment scholarship


Mariea Best has wanted her daughter, Maddie Best, to have the opportunity to keep learning.

Same As U, a Noblesville nonprofit that offers educational classes for young adults with intellectual and development disabilities, is giving her that opportunity. Maddie, 26, was selected as a recipient of the prestigious O’Neill Tabani Enrichment Fund scholarship, which is worth $3,000, awarded by The National Down Syndrome Society.

The award is given to young adults with Down syndrome who are enriching their lives by taking classes or enrolling in post-secondary educational programs.

“Maddie has been such a great fit at Same As U, and we are so honored NDSS gave her this award and deemed us a worthy place for post-secondary education,” Same As U Executive Director Jennifer Sell said.

Best said her daughter, who lives with her in Zionsville, has attended Same As U since the nonprofit opened in January. She takes classes two days a week in person and two days of virtual classes.

“She is learning skills she needs,” Best said. “What she really needs help on is math. She is really strong in social studies and history.”

Best said Same As U fills important need because there weren’t any post-secondary options when Maddie graduated from Zionsville Community High School in 2013.

Her daughter did a one-year internship with Project Search at St. Vincent Health’s in Carmel and had rotations in different areas.

“She then worked at Best Friends pet care for about a year,” Best said. “She then moved on to ManorCare Summer Trace in Carmel. She wanted to do something that was a meaningful job versus washing dishes or taking care of a dog, something she wanted to do. Same As U offers educational training and keeps her learning and interested. Her dream job is to be a barista in a coffee shop. We’re hoping she can work in a coffee shop and not just sweep floors. We’re hoping she can whip up some lattes and some fun tracks.”

Best said Same As U helps her daughter continue to learn.

“When she was in high school, she had to take life-skills classes, art or chorus,” Best said. “We felt we missed out on the more challenging courses. This is a chance to recoup that.”

Best said her daughter is an excellent ballroom dancer.

“I like people to cheer me on,” Maddie said of her dancing. “I like performing.”

Maddie said another goal is to be able to live independently and take Ivy Tech classes after she finishes at Same As U.

Maddie, who started dancing in Special Olympics before moving on to private lessons, won a 2019 Brandon Gruber Scholarship from the NDSS to study dance.

“Maddie wants to teach other people with special needs how to dance,” Best said. “She has a natural talent. She and her instructor are working on a performance routine they can take to other people with special needs to capture their passion and show what passion and discipline can do. It will cover everything from cha-cha to the waltz, several different styles.”

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