You might have expected to hear an ambassador speak of good governance or a humanitarian crisis at the United Nations in New York. It would be fitting.
But it wasn't world leaders addressing global issues on Wednesday – rather, Ridgewood native Diana Stolfo took the stage offering a story of courage and hope.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 marked World Down Syndrome Day and Stolfo had been selected as a featured speaker. The date wasn't chosen at random – it was selected as three copies of chromosome 21 are believed to be the cause of Down Syndrome. Stolfo, 30, was born with 3 copies of chromosome 21.
As part of the opening session of World Down Syndrome Day at the United Nations Conference “Building our Futures,” Stolfo explained how she manages to work and live independently.
She lives in her own apartment in a unique community within Allendale, the same complex her boyfriend Matt (also disabled) resides.
Industrious and hard-working, Stolfo has held a job at for 12 years and also works as an evening receptionist at . Oh, she'll casually tell you, she works two other jobs as well.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone more dedicated, but there are still obstacles for Stolfo. Transportation is a big challenge she says. But don't be surprised to eventually see her behind the wheel.
It's only natural then that her speech at the UN didn't touch on what she can't do, but rather, what she can do.
A model of accomplishment and hard work, her mother Joanne credits the Ridgewood school system as helping foster a sense of independence in her daughter. Had she gone elsewhere, she said, things may not have gone as well.
On Wednesday, in a hallowed room that has seen great figures of courage throughout the decades, Stolfo received a rousing, standing ovation from the audience. (Update: take a look at a brief video here.)
Those who know Diana could not keep back the tears.
Her mother was openly crying, her dad, Sal, was beaming, and her sister Emily and brother David were drying tears.
They know well Diana’s journey and her sturdy character that brought her all the way to the UN.
Those who do not know Diana, but heard her speak Wednesday, were filled with a new hope. It's a very proud day for our community.
[Editor's note: Full disclosure – Lucy Rieger is a neighbor of the Stolfo family.]