Senior Sara Pietig gets involved after transferring schools midsemester and having mosaic Down syndrome

After moving to Shawnee two years ago, Sara overcame difficulties that came with mosaic Down syndrome by joining school organizations

October 16, 2015

Showcasing a photo of her Minnesota friends and adorning medals from bowling, swimming and more, senior Sara Pietig grins on Thursday, Sept. 15. “[I decided to get involved] to get to know other people more and to see what they want to do after high school,” Pietig said. “[My favorite activity] is girl’s swim because it’s really fun and really active.”

By Morgan Nelson
Showcasing a photo of her Minnesota friends and adorning medals from bowling, swimming and more, senior Sara Pietig grins on Thursday, Sept. 15. “[I decided to get involved] to get to know other people more and to see what they want to do after high school,” Pietig said. “[My favorite activity] is girls swim because it’s really fun and really active.”

It was just another day in the middle of October for every other student, but senior Sara Pietig felt nervous walking into school for the first time. She had just moved, in the middle of her sophomore year, from the only place she had ever lived — Plymouth, Minnesota.

“[Mill Valley] was a little different,” Sara said. “I wasn’t comfortable because it was hard. I felt sad because we were moving.”

Sara’s mother, Kristie Pietig, said the decision to leave Minnesota was an ongoing family discussion for two years. They would move back to Kristie’s hometown, Kansas City, to be close to family, and her work would make travel adjustments.

Kristie said Sara reacted well to the news that they were moving to Shawnee.

“Moving back made it a little easier because we had family here and I grew up here. She is such a resilient girl,” Kristie said. “She is pretty flexible.”

“Sara is one of my best friends, and, when I look back on high school, she’ll be one of the best memories.”

— Senior Lilly Lutz

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Sara felt settled in Minnesota. She was comfortable with her friends, in her school and competing in Special Olympics.

“When I was getting ready for my sophomore year, I was settled, and my mom [said] we were moving,” Sara said. “I’m like, ‘I’m gonna miss friends,’ but [my mom said], ‘You can come back and visit.’”

Sara has mosaic Down syndrome, which means only some of her cells are affected by an extra chromosome but this hasn’t kept her from her from extracurriculars. After adjusting to her new environment, Sara started getting involved. She became a part of the girls swim team, MV Outreach and Club 121. Outside of school she joined Special Olympics and the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City and got a job at a coffee shop.

Encouragement from her family, teachers and other students helped Sara branch out.

“Mill Valley has a whole team [of supporters] from Mrs. Long, Mrs. Appl, Mrs. Evans, the ladies in the office and the swim team,” Kristie said. “The whole swim team went to prom together, which was really special.”

Senior Lilly Lutz met Sara at a class cup party during the first semester of their sophomore year. Lily inviting Sara to sit with her that day led to Sara joining the swim team.

“We would hang out at swim and at swim meets. Her mom would always talk to me at swim practice or like the swim meets at the end asking how she was doing,” Lutz said. “It was kind of gradual. Our friendship just got a lot stronger.”

Although her mosaic Down syndrome has not kept Sara from being a social butterfly, she still faces obstacles.

“I think [mosaic Down syndrome] has affected her vulnerability. She doesn’t have the same opportunities as other seniors,” Kristie said. “She doesn’t have a car like most seniors, and I’m not sure if she’ll ever be able to drive until self-driving cars.”

Lutz said that swimming with Sara is one of her favorite things she has done so far in high school.

“Sara is one of my best friends, and, when I look back on high school, she’ll be one of the best memories. I have gotten to know her and her family, swim with her, get ready for prom, go to prom and go prom dress shopping,” Lutz said. “You only get to do those things twice, and it was really awesome that I got to do them with her and some other friends.”

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