“You have a voice and you can use that voice to be heard”

May 30, 2017


UCS students and SOWI athletes after completing the Global Messenger training on April 20 in Madison

Students from Unified Champion Schools (UCS) Columbus High, Madison East High and Mukwonago High came together last month for a public speaking workshop to become Global Messengers for SOWI and learn how to promote and speak on behalf of SOWI and UCS.

Every student who participates in UCS, formerly Project Unify, has a compelling story to tell. It’s vitally important that people who have been touched by programs like those of UCS tell these stories to the world and make a case for the power of inclusion in schools and beyond. To that end, SOWI invited UCS students and athletes to a workshop in Madison on April 20, where SOWI staff and public speaking experts from Toastmasters worked with them on telling their stories effectively and confidently.


Columbus High students Emma Weirough, Angelica Molnar and Sarah Zittel show off their Global Messenger certificates

The day started with presentations on public speaking and speech writing from accomplished Toastmasters Rick Griggs and Roy Pirrung. Pirrung is a renowned ultra-marathon runner and motivational speaker who coaches running for SOWI and was recently inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.

After the morning presentations and lunch, the attendees were tasked with the challenging exercise of writing and preparing their own speeches within the course of an hour, then present them in front of an audience and camera immediately thereafter. The results were astounding in the quality of speeches they put together in such a short time, the eloquence with which they spoke of UCS, and the expression of how much of an impact UCS programs have made on their lives.

“I have been in Project Unify (UCS) for three years. In Project Unify, I like to play kickball with my friends. Project Unify makes me feel happy because of the friends I have made. I want every school to have a Project Unify,” Columbus High student and SOWI athlete Kira Janisch said in her speech while flanked by her friends Ashley Henry and Erica Patrick.

A few other SOWI athletes no longer in high school were also invited to participate and become Global Messengers to help spread the message of the power of inclusion and acceptance.

One such athlete who moved the audience with his speech was Zachary Reetz from Agency 4-19 in Waushara County. Zachary was invited to become a Global Messenger as a new athlete intern for SOWI who is known for his enthusiasm and infectious amiability.

“It felt like I was famous talking about my story on meningitis and my journey to Special Olympics as a Global Messenger. I’m very happy to accomplish all the things I want to do in life. As a Global Messenger I want to tell the athletes ’you have a voice and you can use that voice to be heard,’” Reetz said.

So next time you hear that your school or company will have a guest speaker, it just may be a SOWI Global Messenger like Kira or Zachary. Prepare to be moved.

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