By Cristina Carreon
Rising high school senior Morgan Tibbens hasn’t let Down Syndrome get in the way of her dreams.
She spent the summer looking at college options and thinking about her future, all while running her own business making and selling bath bombs and soaps.
Morgan, along with her mother, co-runs the bath product company, called Da Bombs by Morgan. The company has products sold in 21 stores across the United States, and the mother-daughter duo are hopeful profits from Da Bombs will allow Morgan to have a true college experience.
That’s where the ACCESS program at Mississippi State University comes in. The program teaches students with special needs skills to help them become independent. It also emphasizes giving special needs students that true college experience Morgan is hoping for — but because of many of the extra services provided through ACCESS, tuition for students in the program can be expensive.
Over the summer, Morgan attended a camp at MSU to learn more about the four-year ACCESS program.
“We got some feedback on some things we need to work on, so that was really helpful for us, so we’re excited about that,” said Denise Tibbens, Morgan’s mother.
Although Morgan is active in school programs and extracurriculars, Denise said her daughter is still working on getting out of her shell a bit more. It’s something they hope the ACCESS program will help with.
“We’re hoping that when we get to Mississippi State, we hope she will make lots of friends, she’ll come out of her shell, and hopefully, they will teach them how to take the bus to go downtown, to go grocery shopping, so my hope is that she will get accepted and when she gets accepted, they also find jobs the students might be interested in,” she said.
ACCESS students’ interests and hobbies are matched with on-campus jobs as well.
“When she leaves Mississippi State, we hope the program will show what she has done and how she has done it, to be able to get a job that pays at least minimum wage and maybe more. My hope is she’ll be able to live on her own and that’s the kind of skills they teach,” Denise said.
Morgan was invited to tailgate with ACCESS program students at football games this fall.
“They have a tent and their own spot, so she’s really excited about going down there and seeing all of the people she’s already met and has become friends with, so we’re excited about doing some tailgating and going to some of the football games this year,” Denise said.
Until it’s time for her to move forward with her college plans, Morgan will keep sharing her story and her light, not only through Da Bombs, but also through cheerleading, pageants and advocacy.
At the end of July, Morgan and Denise spoke to representatives from the State Board of Education to encourage Mississippi to expand the Best Buddies program throughout the state. The two also visited Indiana, where Morgan attended a Best Buddies conference as the first ambassador in the program to represent the state of Mississippi.
And in August, Morgan participated in the Miss Amazing pageant in Chicago, a national pageant competition for contestants with disabilities similar to the Miss America pageant.
When asked if she was nervous to compete against 40 other contestants in the Miss Amazing pageant, Morgan just laughed.
“She is great when she’s on that stage and she turns it on and then when she gets off the stage, she’s Morgan again,” her mother said. “It’s so great to see how her confidence has grown when she’s doing the things she loves to do; things that make her smile and feel beautiful just like everybody else.”