I love being in college, because I love to learn.

I am 22 years old, and have wanted to come to Yeshiva University for a long time. I am from a “YU family.” My dad went to YU. My brother went to law school at Cardozo. Two of my sisters went to Stern College for Women, and another sister went to medical school at Einstein. My grandfather got Smicha from YU. I also have a lot of friends from Camp Mesorah and from my high school (I went to Kulanu, which is a program housed in HAFTR) that went to YU. And A LOT of people from Yeshivat Har Eztion/Gush, the yeshiva I went to in Israel through Darkaynu, go to YU.

But I was never sure I would be able to come to Yeshiva University myself because I have Down Syndrome. Then, my Dad told me about Makor.

The Makor College Experience program at YU is great for me. I love learning Gemara with Rabbi Feintuch (I love to “shteig”) because it helps me live and grow. I hope to make a siyum soon. I take classes in psychology (I love it!), Hebrew (I want to speak more ivrit), music (I play drums), and Economics (we learn how to budget and manage our money). I have a gym class twice a week, and sometimes work out in the gym at night, too. I enjoy all of my classes, and love it when we have guest speakers come like President Rabbi Ari Berman and the Roshei Yeshiva. I even love taking midterms and finals.

After classes, I love living in the Makor House near campus. My housemates and I cook dinner together on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I love living with my friends. I love the plaza on campus, and sometimes eating wings at Golan Heights Restaurant when I’m not cooking. I go to the Yiddish club, the woodcarving club, and on Thursday nights I go to “Chassidus and Sushi.” I took part in the Improv Club with the help of Elliot, one of the Makor staff. And, I’m a big fan of the basketball team and Coach Elliot, and will cheer them to the championship again next year.

Sometimes, in my life, people have insulted me because I have Down Syndrome. I don’t want to say what they said, but it made me angry. But other people didn’t care that I have Down Syndrome, and just saw me as JJ. I never let my Down Syndrome get in the way of my doing things. I’m a very cool dude.

But, even with my good attitude, I didn’t think I would be able to go to college before I heard about the Makor College Experience. Makor gives me the chance to learn, to grow, to do what other kids my age are doing, and to help me make new friends. I think everyone should have the chance to go to college if they want to.

I would love to get Smicha from YU like my grandfather did, and even if I don’t, it’s still great to learn in the same beis medrish and classrooms that my grandfather learned in.

Thank you Makor for helping me come to Yeshiva University, and thank you Yeshiva University for introducing the Makor College Experience.

Yonah “JJ” Goldstein is a student at the Makor College Experience Program at Yeshiva University. He lives in Woodmere, New York.