United Motorcoach Association CEO Stacy Tetschner has proven himself to be a passionate advocate for the motorcoach industry and for diversity in its representation.
He’s working toward the goal, he says, that “when someone looks at our board of directors, our people who are on stage, our people writing articles, they can see themselves—there’s someone who looks like them, feels like them and they’re not an outsider looking in.”
That he’s an advocate for inclusion of a different sort is evident the newly released book that he co-authored with his wife, Michelle. Fully Included: Stories to Inspire Inclusion showcases lessons of families, in their own words, as they’ve navigated the education system and beyond for a child with Down syndrome or other special needs.
A decade ago, the couple penned the book Windows into Heaven: Stories Celebrating Down Syndrome, and they felt moved to write this one from both their first-hand experiences and Michelle’s volunteer work as an advocate for families across the country.
“She’s simply passionate about how much more alike than different our kids with intellectual disabilities are,” Tetschner said. “She always says, ‘There’s not a special needs line at McDonalds or the bank. Why should we create special needs lines at school if trying to integrate as one society?’”
Both books were inspired by the raising of their son Raymond, to whom they became foster (not long after adoptive) parents when they took him home from the hospital at five days old.
“While we had people in our lives with Down syndrome, we didn’t know a lot,” Tetschner said. “A lot of the books at the time were academic or stories about this bad thing that happened to me. There was nothing that was uplifting. Raymond is Native American, and in the Native American world, children with Down syndrome are viewed as windows to the Great Spirt. We translated that windows into heaven and thought, ‘we could create a series of stories like Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
While they had enough personal experiences to fill a series of books, they shared some of their own stories in essays scattered throughout both books. By involving different families, Tetschner said, each story can speak to somebody at a different point, something that especially resonates with them. It also shows this is a nationwide movement, he said, rather than one based at “wherever Stacy and Michelle happen to be.”
Their first book was filled with stories so inspirational that they know of physicians who stock their offices with copies to give to families who learn they’ll be delivering a Down syndrome child—and can look forward to that with hope and joy and tools for better navigating the parenting journey. The current book is based on challenges experienced now that Raymond is a 16-year-old sophomore, particularly the battle for full inclusion at the public school (at first) and, later, in the Catholic school system.
This has been a good year for the Tetschners, both in terms of Raymond’s school experience and in reaching some UMA inclusion goals—showcased in one visible way by the election of two new board members in the demographic of the “40 under 45” group he formed. Early in his career, Tetschner said, he had great mentors in diversity speakers who helped him articulate the way that inclusion needs to become the norm, not the exception.
For Raymond, this year they found a Catholic school in Maryland that started a pilot inclusion program in which he’s the first student—but not the last. Eight parents just expressed interest in enrolling their children with Down syndrome in the school at which peers, not aides, offer assistance for any academic challenge. Raymond and one of the high school’s football linemen struck up an especially close friendship, Tetschner said. That boy told his parents, “I see a lot of things differently. Raymond’s not ‘that’ kid. He’s just another kid.” That, Tetschner said, was powerful.
“These are the future doctors and lawyers of the world. These same students will go on to employ, supervise, work and live next-door to someone they’ve become familiar with in school.”