Clari Lehmkuhl is a longtime trailblazer for inclusion, starting in grade school. When Clari—who has Down syndrome—was accepted into a regular (not special) school, it was front-page news in her hometown of Alberton, South Africa. Her mother says that mainstream education has made all the difference in Clari’s progress.
After she and her family moved to the United Arab Emirates, she became a role model there as well—proving that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of achieving their dreams.
Health and fitness are huge parts of Clari’s life. She started taking Zumba classes, then persevered to become the country's first certified Zumba instructor with Down syndrome—and one of the very few in the world.
Clari has also worked four years in a secretarial job at NYU Abu Dhabi. In addition, she’s been an assistant at a major marketing agency, doing general administration—from filing, scanning and printing to mail duties and ordering stationery.
As for tennis, Clari has been a dedicated player since age 6. She’s been training hard for the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. At the last World Games in Abu Dhabi, she took on the challenge of competing as the only female singles tennis player representing the host country! She is definitely ready to bring back more medals in Berlin.
Clari is also starting to learn how to cook as part of becoming more independent. In Clari’s words, “I am a will-powered woman—and very happy!”