EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — An Edinburg fourth-grade teacher and mother of a child with Down Syndrome is advocating for change in her community, starting in her classroom.

Nereyda Ruiz, mother of Camila, a 5-year-old with Down Syndrome, told ValleyCentral about the ways in which she celebrates World Down Syndrome Day to spread awareness in her community.

“When I first got the diagnosis when I was pregnant it was very scary,” Ruiz said. “Even after she was born because we don’t know, we’re not informed enough about Down Syndrome as a disability. So, for a parent, it’s very scary.”

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and is dedicated to celebrating children and adults with Down Syndrome.

“We celebrate it on March 21 because they have a third copy of the twenty-first chromosome,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz aims to change this scary stigma about Down Syndrome by educating one mind at a time. Today Ruiz dedicated the day to educating her class on what Down Syndrome is, how it happens, and even some activities to have general education students understand the significance Down Syndrome plays in day-to-day tasks.

“I had them put a sock on their left hand and write a sentence just so that they can see how hard it is for individuals with Down Syndrome to write something,” Ruiz said. “I also did another activity with marshmallows in their mouth because individuals with Down Syndrome have low muscle tone and it’s really hard for them to speak.”

She said her colleagues are observing the day just as she is. While she is happy with the approach her school district has taken so far, she hopes to see more adults and districts be more aware and sensitive to children with disabilities.

“To me and to all of us involved with individuals with Down Syndrome it’s all about bringing awareness and letting everybody know what Down Syndrome is,” Ruiz said. “That it’s not scary, it’s not something to be sad or down about.”

Five years ago Ruiz got involved with the RGV Down Syndrome Association, an organization started by two Valley moms who wanted to spread awareness about Down Syndrome. They throw parties, dances and all sorts of events so that individuals of all ages with Down Syndrome may hang out with their families.

“Just so that families can unite and communicate with each other, that’s what the organization is for,” Ruiz said. “So, families don’t feel like they’re alone in this journey because it can be scary.”

Those looking to volunteer with RGVDSA can visit rgvdsa.org to learn more.