We are privileged to work with so many general education students who love Special Olympics as much as our athletes do and look to be agents of change on their campuses. They put in tireless hours to make their school a better place, making everyone feel respected and accepted.
Meet one such student – Claire, a senior at California High School in San Ramon.
Before Claire ever got connected with the Schools Partnership Program, she was giving presentations to her peers about why they should stop using the r-word. In her sophomore English class, everyone had to make a persuasive argument in front of the entire class so Claire and her friend Nicole argued against use of the r-word.
We caught up with Claire to learn more about her passion for Special Olympics:
What made you first want to stop the use of the r-word?
The moment I knew I wanted to end the use of the r-word was when I was at my mom’s work at Los Cerros Middle School. There was a Spread the Word to End the Word poster that had quotes from people with physical and intellectual disabilities about how they felt about the r-word. I read this poster the summer before my sophomore year in high school, and knew I wanted to get involved. Here’s what the poster looked like:
Besides the presentation you gave in English class, what made you want to do more at your school and prompted you connecting with Special Olympics and the Schools Partnership Program?
One of the first things I did that year with other students from my school was cheering at the finish line at the Buddy Walk put on by the Down Syndrome Connection in our area. We then went on to do the Polar Plunge with Special Olympics in San Francisco and a few Fans in the Stands events that year. I knew I wanted to do more for Special Olympics because I wanted to make other peoples’ lives better. I actually grew up on the playground with the kids from the special education class where I went to elementary school at Golden View Elementary. My mom was a helped in the special education class so I got to know all the students in the class and we used to play on the monkey bars and the swings with them during recess.
What has been the best part about your work with Special Olympics?
The best part of working with Special Olympics is knowing I was able to bring something to my high school that will help people with disabilities and that will get other students involved with Special Olympics. Nothing is better than seeing other people smile because of what you have done.
With so many extracurricular activities out there to choose from and all the college-prep classes students these days have to take, what makes you devote so much of your precious time to Special Olympics?
I am one of those kids that have a list of extracurricular activities that takes up my time such as student government, golf team and Junior State of America. But the one activity that will always be there even after I graduate from high school is Special Olympics. It gives me the privilege to help people all around me for the rest of my life.
Why do you think it’s important for non-disabled peers such as yourself to be involved with their special education peers?
I think it is important for my peers to get involved with Special Olympics because it gives you an open mind about so many possibilities and types of people. Plus, the joy one receives from watching or volunteering with Special Olympics fills your heart.
What would you tell someone who wasn’t sure about getting involved with Special Olympics or even something as fast as signing an r-word poster?
I would tell someone who was hesitating about volunteering or even pledging to end the r-word that the amount of people that their one decision would help is an incredible number and that they are standing up for others that can’t always do it for themselves.
What are your college and career aspirations?
Right now, my No. 1 school is Oregon State University, where my big brother goes to college. I want to study to become an American history teacher for high school students.