Times Square display salutes Chandler teen - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Times Square display salutes Chandler teen

October 11th, 2021 development
Times Square display salutes Chandler teen

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Many high school students across the country dream of seeing their photo flash above New York City’s Times Square someday. For Casteel High senior Samantha Derivan, it’s just another thing to cross off her to do list.

She has already crossed off a lot on that list, including being captain of the cheer squad as well as an athlete, a model, ballerina and dance teacher.

So when her photo flashed on a Times Square billboard on Sept. 18, it was a nice moment. Samantha aid her modeling agency sent her an email letting her know she was one of the people selected.

“I was crying because I was so happy,” she said.

The display was of 500 people with Down syndrome that New York City and the National Down Syndrome Society do annually on the morning of their Buddy Walk.

Samantha’s mother, Therese Derivan, submitted a photo of her daughter to the society that had been taken by a local professional photographer. Therese said she figured it had to be a great photo because most people chosen are younger.

Samantha said she was happy to be chosen as a role model.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month.

“I just want people to feel, like in the future, that whatever they want to do in life … you can be the person who you are meant to be, instead of being something that you’re not. You don’t have to be perfect. Do your best, don’t give up, and don’t forget, you can do this.”

Samantha plans to keep modeling after graduation, among other things. She also wants to pursue singing, dancing and acting. Her caretaker of four years said this career path was not unexpected.

“I was not surprised because Sam has always been stylish, and loved the camera,” said Ella Wood, who works with Samantha in dealing with various challenges. “She doesn’t mind being in front of a crowd.”

Next up for the busy senior is ballet. She is scheduled to be part of Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker performance.

Samantha’s career dreams are not a surprise to her mother.

“We were riding in an elevator once, and suddenly she struck a runway model pose just before the doors open, because there might be somebody on the other side,” Therese said. “That’s when we knew she was probably going to be a model.

“She knows what the camera is, and loves being in front of it.”

Therese said they wanted to be in Times Square for the display, but because of COVID concerns they had to watch it online.

“It was sad not being there but still exciting to see it anyway. You can see Sam’s reaction on her Instagram page and she was so happy.”