The following post was written by Caleigh Parker and Athens White, a Special Olympics Unified pair from Special Olympics Oklahoma. In July of 2018, Caleigh and Athens attended the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington to participate in the Youth Leadership Experience (YLE). Along with Unified pairs from across the country, Caleigh and Athens were chosen for the YLE because of their leadership skills and passion for inclusion. Congrats on being named the #SOYouthOfTheWeek!
Our experience at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Youth Leadership Experience was incredible. The opportunity to attend a leadership conference with so many people who are so passionate about the same things as us was such a unique and positive experience. Our week at the Games was jam-packed of fun activities, valuable learning opportunities, and new friends from all over the United States. Caleigh and I had the time of our lives. We learned so much about what Special Olympics has to offer and the need for us to become leaders of the Inclusion Revolution in our home state and beyond. The week we spent in Seattle at the USA Games discussing ideas and improving our leadership skills has inspired the both of us to make a difference exactly where we are.
Caleigh and I met during our second year of high school and have been together ever since. I was Unified Club President and a member of our state Youth Activation Committee in high school, and Caleigh was a member of both the Unified Club and Youth Activation Committee at the same time. The Youth Leadership Experience helped us realize that it was time for us to use what we learned that week to increase our involvement with Special Olympics Oklahoma. This fall I am a freshman in college and Caleigh a senior in high school, so we may not be together as much as we were last year, but we aren’t going to let that stop us in supporting the Inclusion Revolution movement.
Caleigh was elected as an officer in the Yukon High School’s Unified Club. With this, she will be able to use her voice to create a more inclusive community. I also came home with big and bright ideas to create a more inclusive world. Using all the new knowledge and resources I acquired at the Youth Leadership Experience, I came home to start a Special Olympics College Club at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Though these beginning steps have proven challenging, I am fueled with more passion and excitement than ever before.
If we had to summarize what we learned at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Youth Leadership Experience in Seattle, it would be that Caleigh and I truly represent the youth in this powerful movement. We are the change, we hold all the power, we need to make the changes that we want to see, and there is an entire community of people supporting us and joining us for the Inclusion Revolution. The Youth Leadership Experience gave us a platform to discover new ideas and an unstoppable motivation to create powerful inclusion right where we are. We are so excited to begin implementing everything we learned and to encourage others to join the movement. We are the Leaders in the Inclusion Revolution!
Learn more about what Caleigh, Athens, and many youth pairs across the country accomplished during the Youth Leadership Experience by clicking HERE.