The following post was written by Josh and Kayla, two Special Olympics youth leaders from North Carolina. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
Josh and I had a wonderful experience unifying our school and bringing inclusion to our county. We had countless times when we came into rough spots and we both learned many ways we can overcome certain obstacles. Receiving the $2,500 grant brought us many steps closer to bringing more inclusion to our school. We began to use this grant by buying equipment for games and snacks for the early morning. It helped us promote the word of inclusion in our school, while also giving us an extra hand on getting more things for this cause.
Josh and I got to know each other even better through the year by working closely together and while working with him I have learned a lot of new things. First, we learned good management because we had to set aside the money for certain things. Although we wanted to buy tons of food for the games, Josh and I had to think about the things we really did need to help promote inclusion in our school.
Next, we learned more about leadership. We thought more about what had to get done rather than just things we can do. Josh and I bought t-shirts with our money for every student participating in our unified club at our school. The students wore their shirts at club meetings, games, events, and even around the school to show off our spirit. While having much to cover in a year, I am so glad that I had the chance to work closely with Josh and to get to know him even more. While doing so it made me more open minded to the things we achieved throughout the year.
In the beginning of the year, our unified club here at our school was just reaching fifty people and that is massive for our school. Now, a year later, our club has reached over three hundred people in our school. We play games like kickball, flag football, soccer, and basketball. By having this grant we were able to have the correct equipment we needed to provide for our school and the school we were playing. I really loved working with each and every unified member and pair, it was something I would look forward to at the end of the day. Josh had a lot of fun too, he made many more friends and I can see this when he walks down the hallway every single day because he is always getting high-fives and showing true friendship to each and every student in our school. People now see more of the reason as to why we do this and how much it does change these students’ lives on a day to day basis.
Along with this, we also started a unified track team here at our school. Josh and I were a part of it and lots of time and effort went into this. We had people running 200m to 800m! Many people were also tossing the ball and doing long jump. Josh had the chance to run with what he calls “the older, stronger boys” during the season, and while doing this he ran 800m for the first time all season. This was the highlight of Josh’s unified track season and he impressed all of us. While doing so, our unified track team placed 6th in the 4X100m in states. The grant gave us equipment for this and now it is something that will last at our school and will continue to grow through the seasons.
The 2018–2019 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, the Kantar Group, the Microsoft Corporation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.