NWU Optentia applauds Sheri Brynard – international ambassador for people living with Down syndrome

Annette Willemse -- Wed, 10/14/2015 - 16:13

NWU Optentia applauds Sheri Brynard – international ambassador for people living with Down syndrome

Sheri Brynard (33) lives an impactful life, and is the first – and still is, the only person in South Africa with Down syndrome who has successfully completed a tertiary education qualification.

During the recent first-ever South African Symposium on Teacher Education for Inclusion – which was hosted by the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), the Optentia Research Focus Area (a multidisciplinary research unit within the Faculty of Humanities) awarded Brynard with the prestigious Optentia Honorary Award. This award represents the highest accolade to be presented by Optentia.

Sheri Brynard with her Optentia Honorary Award

More about the Optentia Honorary Award

The Optentia Research Focus Area acknowledges the contributions of individuals and institutions that show virtuous behaviour in the South African context. Virtuous behaviour is typified by three characteristics, namely:

  • Human impact: associated with flourishing and moral character, human strength, self-control, and resilience, and with meaningful human purpose.
  • Moral goodness: represents what is good, right, and worthy of cultivation.
  • Social betterment: produces benefit to others regardless of reciprocity or reward.

The mission of the Optentia Research Focus Area is to develop and organise knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential, with specific interest in the African context. The research programme utilises the inputs from various disciplines in the social sciences, including Psychology, Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology, Educational Scienecs, Employment Relations, and Social Work.

More about the recipient: Sheri Brynard

Sheri Brynard is the only person with Down syndrome who is a qualified teacher with a tertiary teacher’s diploma (without any amendments been made to the course), in the world. She is also an international ambassador for all people with Down syndrome. Asked what her motto in life is, she answers that she truly believes that all people have the ability to choose to make the best of their circumstances – and she is a living example of that.

She is currently an assistant teacher at a pre-primary school and she is a highly sought-after motivational speaker; both locally and internationally. Apart from the more than 380 public speeches she has given in South Africa, she did the opening speech at the last International Down syndrome Conference in 2012 and she has been asked to do the same later in this year. She has also delivered a keynote address at the international headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

Sheri works hard to break down the prejudice of society against people with intellectual disabilities by accepting frequent invitations to share her story at schools, businesses, churches, youth development programmes and conferences in South Africa and abroad. She also had a small role in the hit Afrikaans TV series, Binnelanders and apart from her love for acting and public speaking, Sheri is in the process of writing her own book.

As an ambassador – chosen by Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA), she also serves as ambassador on the international Down syndrome board. She was also awarded the highest prestige award from the South African Down Syndrome Association for the highest academic achievement received by a person with Down syndrome in South Africa. Nationally she has received numerous awards and even internationally she recently received recognition by Down Syndrome International. Sheri proves that, no matter what the circumstances, everyone has the opportunity to shine, touch other people’s lives and make a difference in the world.

Sheri has received numerous awards, among which:

  • The Presidential award (highest accolade in South Africa) for people who have made a contribution to the lives of mentally handicapped people in South Africa. This is a national award presented at a gala event of the Hamlet Foundation in Johannesburg, and the first time ever that a person with a disability received it.
  • Selected by Down Syndrome International to receive the World Down Syndrome Day Award in recognition of her incredible efforts to change the lives and perceptions of people with Down syndrome.
  • Chosen out of more than 1 400 nominations as one of the 15 Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year, in 2012 finalists. She went on to win this competition in her category: “Young Movers”.
  • Chosen to be honoured by Tribute, a KwaZulu-Natal based organisation that pays tribute to people with disabilities in South Africa who make a difference in the lives of others.