The Youth Activation Summit at the 2014 USA Games by Marta Cantrell, Courtney Heller, & Krysten Kirsch

June 18, 2014

The 2014 USA Games Youth Summit is off to a great start! The first day we arrived early, so we had a full day of rest and opportunity to explore Lawerenceville School, our campus for the week. (Fun fact: We learned it costs $70,000 a year for a student to attend this school for grades 9-12!) At the summit there are more than 100 Project UNIFY youth and adults combined from all across the nation to learn about and practice being inclusive leaders!

After all delegations arrived by Sunday morning, we had our opening session with motivating, energizing speakers from the summit sponsors and special guests.  After great poetry from "The Poetry Project," our opening session concluded and  we broke off into discussion teams. We are with Minnesota, New Mexico, and North Carolina – combined into the name: "New North Minnesconsin." We meet daily with this team to reflect and to get to know each other.

In sessions so far this week, we learned how to be a leader, how to be a friend, how to treat others, and how to make others feel welcome. These concepts come from the pillars we learned at the Special Olympics North America (SONA) Conference last summer. We are now taking them to a new level. The five pillars are inclusion, co-leadership, teamwork, communication, and environment. These sessions were led by high school students and guest speakers, like Mike Smith who started Skate for Change. He was humorous engaging speaker!

After our hard days work, we have lots of fun in the evenings. Our favorite thing so far was the dinner cruise around New York skyline and Lady Liberty. Other fun things we have done are Opening Ceremony, pizza party, and the Olympic Town (a recreated Jersey Shore with carnival rides, games, and food!).

We are looking forward to more fun, friendships, and learning more things to bring back to the schools in the state!

Marta Cantrell, Courtney Heller, & Krysten Kirsch, SOWI Youth Activation Committee at USA Games Project UNIFY Youth Summit

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