The following post was written by Criag and Hanna, two Special Olympics youth leaders from Wyoming. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
While in Baku, Azerbaijan, at the Global Youth Forum for Special Olympics, our project began to fall into place. When we first arrived, we thought we were going to hold a coffee shop for our project but did not know how everything would work out. There were many parts to this project up in the air, such as who would be involved, how we would purchase the equipment, how much this would cost, and who would help run the event. After listening to everyone else’s ideas, we began to rethink our project.
While in Baku, we attended a soccer day. This day was a lot of fun and led us to think that we should rethink our project. We decided to hold a soccer day. We then began to think this idea over. On the way home, ideas spilled out of our exhausted minds. We presented our ideas at a leadership meeting with a team of one freshman, one sophomore, two juniors, and one senior. Within the leadership team, we had one individual with an intellectual disability. The diversity of the team helped us conquer this large task.
We divided soccer day up so that each person could take part in the event. Once everyone arrived for soccer day, we started off with a warm welcome and the agenda. We then broke up into pairs and played many games, including dribbling, musical chairs, and a passing and shooting drill. While we were switching to a group game, we had a water and snack break. We then broke everyone up into four different teams.
Then came the time to play a full-court soccer game. There were only two rules to the game- everyone must touch the ball and have fun. Each team played twice, with the winner of each game going onto the championship game. Since there was a tie, we had to choose one athlete and one partner to have a shoot out. After the games, we watched a video about inclusion and engaged in a group cheer. We then gathered for a group picture and handed out more snacks.
This one day, February 1st, was a positive change for our school. It brought many high school and middle school students with and without disabilities together. We were able to have fun playing soccer, make new friendships, and learn how to interact with those who are different than us. Craig states, “I got to meet new friends and now they are my best friends.”
The students who participated were able to see how to bring athletes and partners together through understanding. I would love to do another soccer day and invite more schools. We now have more Unified Partners who have joined our journey through fun times together in sport. This day has had a great impact on Cody High School, and we hope that we will be able to have another day like this and keep making Cody High School a better place for all.
The 2018 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.