Lifting Herself Up

Inside an empty weight room at Casper’s Kelly Walsh High School, Alyssa Lattimer is getting ready to practice her squats. Herfather Todd spots her as she settles the bar on her shoulders. With even breaths, she counts her reps, practicing the form that took her to Wyoming state championships for powerlifting.

Four months earlier and one floor above, Alyssa performed Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at Rodstock, a musical talent show put on annually by the school, as a raucous crowd cheered and sang along.As the song boomed through the gymnasium, she danced to the beat and performed a series of rock star moves. Music suffuses the 20-year-old’s life. She’s quick to sing along to a song on the radio or stop everything to dance when she feels the beat.

Alyssa was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in an extra chromosome. She lives a full and vibrant life, walking side-by-side with her community of family and friends as she pursues her passions. “Alyssa was very accepted with her peers and her school,” says Alejandra, Alyssa’s mother.

As football players slowly enter the weight room for practice, Alyssa ends her workout, greeting each athlete on her way out of the building. Next year, Alyssa will step onto her largest stage yet as she travels to Orlando, Florida, where she will represent Special Olympics of Wyoming in a national powerlifting competition.

Alyssa does jumping jacks in her back yard in Casper as her nephew July Hecht, 6, runs in circles around her Wednesday, July 21, 2021. "She'll just be out here singing all the time," says Alejandra, Alyssa's mom. July and Alyssa are inseparable during his visit. They look through photos, play games and cuddle on the couch together.

Meghann Hecht, Alyssa's older sister, looks across the table at Alyssa as she flips through old photo albums at their family home in Casper July 21. On Alyssa's head is a paper smiling star placed their by Meghann's eldest son July. 

Under the supervision of her father, Todd, Alyssa demonstrates her squat technique during her workout at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Alyssa in power lifting state championships for Kelly Walsh in 2020 and 2021. Next year she will compete nationally for Special Olympics of Wyoming. 

Alyssa Lattimer whips her hair back and forth as she dances with Brett Lafave, 19, at the Beacon club in Mills Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Lattimer and Lafave have known each other since elementary school and have been close most of their lives. Both compete in Special Olymics and attend classes at The Arc which is dedicated to providing life skills and vocational training for people with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. As well the two participate in social activities such as monthly dances at The Beacon through the organization Live Inspired.