The following post was written on behalf of Kathryn Foster and Cheryl Chestnut, a Special Olympics Unified pair from Special Olympics Kentucky. In July of 2018, Kathryn and Cheryl 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, Kathryn and Cheryl were chosen for the YLE because of their leadership skills and passion for inclusion. Congrats on being named the #SOYouthOfTheWeek!
Since the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Youth Leadership Experience, Kathryn & Cheryl’s high school was announced as one of two National Banner Unified Champion Schools for the state of Kentucky. As members of their school’s Unified Champion Schools (UCS) Club and Leadership team, the girls’ inclusion efforts over the years were contributing factors in earning this recognition.
Upon returning from their trip to Seattle for the USA Games, Kathryn started college but remains active with her local Special Olympics delegation. She participates in Unified bowling and cheerleading, is a member of the Best Buddies group at her college, and even returns to her high school periodically as an advisor for Calloway High School’s UCS Club.
Cheryl, now a junior, continues to participate in a variety of sports and is looking forward to Unified track & field in the spring. Of her USA Games experience Cheryl states…“When we had the opportunity to watch Unified basketball and Unified flag football it inspired me to want to start a new sport at my school. I would like to start Unified basketball this year and maybe in my senior year, start Unified flag football. I learned it’s important for me to get involved and help add new sports at my school. I thought the experience was really fun and I hope to do it again sometime.”
In an effort to learn more about leading Unified activities, Cheryl, along with a few classmates, took their quest across state lines to attend the Special Olympics Illinois Youth Activation Summit! The team left with a plan to host their own Summit for schools new to the UCS program in their area and incorporate a Unified basketball exhibition into the event. They hope this will give them the start they need to officially create a Unified basketball team, while inspiring a few other schools nearby to do the same.
Learn more about what Kathryn, Cheryl, and many youth pairs across the country accomplished during the Youth Leadership Experience by clicking HERE.