“This is the life”

Meet the many faces of Partnerships for Success


Lia Bodine

Haythorn and senior co-president Boyd Brim.

Boyd Brim laughs.

“Martha? Martha’s very bold in what she’s talking about,” he said. “She, uh, she’s a character.”

Martha Haythorn is the sophomore co-president of Partnerships for Success (PFS) along with seniors Brim and Kira Eidle. Haythorn has been in the club for three years, although this is her first time being a club leader.

“My favorite thing about being president is that I get to enforce rules on [everyone else],” Haythorn said. “And I get to give them detention, too. I don’t actually give them detention, but they have detention.”

Although he dislikes detention, Brim agrees that Haythorn has found her place.

“I think just having Martha as a part of the presidency, it means the world to her,” he said.

PFS is “a high school based program founded on the belief that a student’s ability to make important life decisions for the future must begin by high school,” according to the official PFS website. PFS at Decatur provides the opportunity for students with disabilities to participate in activities with non-disabled peers, creating bonds that the students cherish.

Haythorn feels PFS follows through on their promise.

“I have a lot of friends, and that’s the good thing about PFS,” she said. “You meet a lot of friends and it changes your experience.”

Lucky for the other PFS club members, she aspires to do much more than handing out detentions.

“My idea is to make [PFS] expand,” Haythorn said. “Expand it like a worldwide club, like Closeup. We would learn about all types of disabilities, we would research about them, we would do homework about them, go on a lot of trips, and we would have meetings every Monday and Tuesday after school–3:30 on the dot.”

The bimonthly PFS meetings are student-led and student-oriented.

Graham and Rothman telling jokes.
Graham and Rothman telling jokes.

“We have a communications person, a treasurer,  kind of like a government,” Brim said. “Kira and I, as presidents, have more say. We have to find events, plan them and contact our teachers about the dates.”

Eidle is in charge of contacting parents. During the meetings, the club members break off into groups where they decide what events they want to do and when to do them.

All three presidents play their own unique roles in the process.

“Martha is integral in [the planning], especially in giving her opinion, as she is a special-education kid and we can’t exactly provide that perspective to the events,” Eidle said. “She is very mindful and inclusive of other people, so it’s important she’s a part of that decision-making process.”

First and foremost, the officers are club members. PFS events are some of the co-presidents’ favorite memories.

“I think my most memorable experience with the club was last year, when we had a guys’ movie night,” Brim said. “It was fun because we were all there together, laying on each other,  and just eating a bunch of snacks. It just felt like family. Some of the kids I barely knew, some I didn’t even know their last name. Having the club, and bringing all these different types of people together, makes me enjoy being a part of it.”

The variety of personalities inspires Brim  and other officers to lead the club. For Haythorn, however, there’s more than just that benefit. She rode on the PFS float in the homecoming parade.

“That was really fun,” she said. “That’s what I love about PFS–it’s that we’re a club and we can actually support our school.”

Eidle recalls the moment when Haythorn learned she would be riding on the float.

“I just remember her being so excited because she’s always so eager to be a part of Partnerships stuff,” Eidle said. “You can definitely see that she’s passionate about it, and that’s so important in what we do.”

Eidle, like Haythorn, has no problem being passionate about PFS. Watching her brother grow up, she saw firsthand what living with a disability is like.

“My brother has mild Asperger’s and, growing up as his twin, I went to every doctor’s appointment. I helped him develop mentally, socially and physically for a long time, until he got to the point where he could function well in a normal environment,” she said.

Haythorn was born with Down syndrome, a type of cognitive disability. Normally, a person inherits 23 chromosomes from each parent, or 46 overall. However, those with Down syndrome tend to have 47. People with Down syndrome will generally experience a host of symptoms, which include short stature, eye conditions and depression.

Haythorn learned she had the condition when she watched a video during her seventh grade science class.

“I saw myself in that video and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is what I look like, this is exactly the same thing, I have the same condition, this is really freaky,’” she said.

This scared Haythorn.

“I had awful nightmares after that,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to get bullied in high school, they’re not going to like me,’ but I made friends, and it’s easier.”

PFS provided her with the support she needed.

“I was like, ‘ooh, this is a club I should do, I actually need this,” she said. “I want to hang out with more people, so I finally got into it. I noticed that a lot of people were liking me, and I was like, ‘oh man, this is the life.’”

Haythorn looks at PFS as much more than just a club.

“It’s also a social group, a fun group, and I can always talk about anything,” she said.

Haythorn has found a lot of friends, and quite a few admirers, along the way. Brim is one of them.

“Whenever I see her in the hallway, or whenever she sees me, she always runs up to me and hugs me and that–I don’t know, it’s just awesome because having a friend like that just means the world to me,” he said. “Just seeing her brighten up with that huge smile of hers… you know that she’s happy and that’s one thing I love about Martha–she’s always so happy.”

Eidle agrees with Brim’s love of Haythorn’s attitude, and recognizes it throughout the disability itself.

“Something special about Down syndrome kids is that they’re really high-functioning kids,” Eidle added. “[F]or her to still have that recognition of, ‘yes, I’m different, but that’s OK and I’m still going to be excited about who I am’ , and that pride she takes in herself is inspiring.”

Haythorn leaves her pride aside when the club is in session.

“It’s really, really fun,” she said. “It’s about including everybody in a group, which I like the most, so that’s really… swag.”