The Unified Generation is paving the way for equality and respect for those with intellectual disabilities through their leadership and commitment to inclusion.
Coordinated alongside the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, 37 delegations representing their State Special Olympics Program convened for the inaugural Youth Leadership Experience. These delegations embodied inter-generational leadership through the collaboration between the Unified pair and their adult mentor. A variety of training opportunities and activities empowered youth leaders to return to their local schools and communities as agents of change.
Kathryn Foster, Cheryl Chestnut & Karen Michalak-Parsley
Through the observation of Interscholastic Unified Basketball and Intercollegiate Unified Flag Football, youth leaders were motivated to continue their involvement with Special Olympics as they make the transition from high school to college.
Youth leaders learned how to identify the important elements of Unified Sports – meaningful involvement and player dominance during competition. Representatives from the National Intramural and Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA) met with YLE participants to discuss their partnership with Special Olympics and shared insight on connecting with recreation professionals on college campuses. NIRSA is the leading organization for college recreation, which makes their partnership critical for the continued expansion of intercollegiate Unified Sports.
With the Social Media and Storytelling rotation at the Youth Leadership Experience, participants were invited to immerse themselves into one of the foundations of the Special Olympics movement: sharing stories of inclusion.
Before the event, each delegation was invited to complete activation challenges to share their personal stories of what inclusion means to them. These challenges gave the youth the chance to share their dedication and show how their school celebrates inclusion: experiences that might differ for each delegation.
General sessions were used to prepare and to reflect on the roles our participants took on during the week, to turn an experience into action.
Opening session served as an orientation for our youth leaders and mentors. Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman for Special Olympics International, challenged the youth leaders to think of their “one shot” they do not want to miss over the next week, and started a little dance party to kick off the week.
Closing session served as recognition for the work they accomplished over the past four days and as an opportunity to set goals that will impact their school, their community, and their Special Olympics State Program.