Whether it’s athletics, acting or music, Luke Zimmerman has never let anyone put limits on his dreams. Through his own determination and the support of his family, he has become a TV star and a role model for the differently-abled.
Luke was born in 1979 in Evanston, Illinois, and was involved in early intervention programs from the time he was 2 weeks old. His family moved a lot when he was little before settling in Beverly Hills, California, in 1986. There, he was mainstreamed into many classes in his public school and became the first person with Down syndrome to go through Beverly Hills High School.
Taking an interest in the football team, Luke walked straight up to senior football players while he was a freshman and said he wanted to play. Coach Carter Paysinger, who’s now the school’s principal, let him help out with the team, but he was soon suiting up for games and even got to play. His interest in athletics didn’t stop at the football field. He was on his high school swim team and placed at regionals in the butterfly stroke. Luke also was involved in orchestra, chorus, photography and piano.
But it was the acting bug that bit hardest. When Luke was still a grade-schooler, his family received a call from the head of special education in the Beverly Hills school district, who had been contacted about a part in a TV movie for a boy with Down syndrome. Luke had his acting debut in “Daughter of the Streets,” alongside Jane Alexander and John Stamos.
Luke has been a student at Performing Arts Studio West, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities that offers acting, music and dance classes as well as casting calls. It was there that he got his shot with “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” a TV show on ABC Family on which Luke has played Tom Bowman since 2008. Luke and his friends who are interested in acting get together every Thursday in an actors group to put on plays.
When he’s not acting, Luke volunteers at the local courthouse, where he has helped out with clerk duties for over 10 years, and serves as an usher at his church. He also enjoys ballroom dancing every week with his girlfriend.
In April, Luke was contacted by the Make A Wish Foundation, and he traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, to escort a young woman who has Down syndrome and several heart and other medical conditions to her senior prom, where she was selected as prom queen.
Luke, the middle child among three brothers, remains close to his family, and lives with his parents in Beverly Hills.
For his determination, spirit and self-advocacy, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation is proud to present Luke Zimmerman with the 2012 Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award.