DEAR EDITOR: What Project UNIFY has taught us

March 4, 2015

Dear Editor,

Although many people may not know it, our community can proudly say that we are represented within the extraordinary organization of Special Olympics. Our high school has been representing this organization for the last three, almost four, years through our Club UNIFY. This is a club primarily run by high school students that combines education and fun into activities that increase leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities, while creating communities of acceptance for all.   Club UNIFY taught us of the power to influence the mindset of hundreds of people after it came to influence our own. It was our freshman year when our social studies teacher first introduced our classmates and us to the idea of joining hands and becoming a Project UNIFY school in order to improve the climate. When ourselves and a few other students finally surrendered to her pleas and joined the movement, we realized just how little our fellow peers and even ourselves knew about the true definition of unity. 

Before this club, we hadn’t had relationships with students with intellectual disabilities. We’d never known about their weekend plans, or the hobbies we shared. We found we didn’t know anything about these kids that we passed in the hallway every day. Without Project UNIFY we might’ve never learned that our friend Aaron could draw just about any Disney character you could name, or that our friend Dylan knew the batting stats on every single Brewer’s player. Because of Project UNIFY we discovered things not only about others, but about ourselves too. We learned that we had the tenacity to overcome the challenges we faced. We could impact a school of students who dropped the R word on a daily basis. Because of Project UNIFY our peers began to think before they spoke, they began to look at disabilities with a different attitude, they began gain knowledge on differences. Although we still have work to do, Project UNIFY has helped us create an environment within our school where you will always be greeted with warm hugs and smiles no matter how many math problems you failed to solve or how bad a day you are having. 

We urge anyone and everyone to get involved with Special Olympics, whether it be Polar Plunging or volunteering at a local sports tournament. To us, it has acted as the gift that continues to give. It has moved mountains within us, and has forced us to consider ourselves as change agents in the world. This organization has touched kids across the nation; it’s changed lives. Through Special Olympics Club UNIFY we have seen a picture of society that generations to come can be happy to live in.

With appreciation,
Olivia Jones and Grace Rollins

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