Special Olympics College: Senior Year

Throughout my four years at Central Michigan University, one of my biggest involvements and some of my proudest moments have come as a member of Special Olympics College. My Freshman year when I became involved with Special Olympics College I had some experience with the Special Olympics but I never would have imagined how involved I would get. Since then I have served on the Executive Board for three years as the Student Government Association Representative, President, and as the Vice President. Special Olympics College has helped me to grow as a person and a leader.

When I took over as President my Junior year I was overwhelmed and underprepared. Although I gave it a great effort, I was not prepared for the amount of work and stress that I would be put under. This was my first time taking on a true leadership role where I was in charge. Throughout the year I struggled to make concrete decisions, often fearing people in the organization disapproving of the decisions or not agreeing with them. As a result, I often tried to hold votes or asked people’s opinions about decisions that I could have made on my own. This caused the processes to take longer than they should have and, as a result, we missed out on some opportunities and were not as effective, as an organization, as we could have been. One other aspect of leadership that I struggled with was allocating work effectively. As a result I often felt overwhelmed and frustrated and as though I had to do all the work on my own, when I could have given it to This experience, although it did not always feel like it at the time, was a great experience, helped me grow, and taught me that I have a lot to learn as a leader.

As the Vice President Senior year, my role looked a bit different but I was still able to play a large part in the organization and the decision making. I learned from my experience and my mistakes from Junior year and was able to be more confident and decisive in my role. Although I was no longer President, I feel as though I was able to take an even bigger role in the organization by taking leadership roles and responsibility for projects including creating and coaching a team to compete in the Unified Basketball Division at regionals and nationals, as well as leading the Spread the Word, Inclusion committee which tabled all over campus advocating for inclusive language, especially regarding those with intellectual disabilities. Being able to take a leadership role in these projects has been extremely rewarding and has helped me develop as a leader.

This experience of not necessarily being the leader OF the organization, but rather taking leadership positions within it has been an eyeopening and extremely beneficial experience. Being a part of Special Olympics College throughout the last four years is something that will stick out as a huge part of my college experience and one that has helped me grow as a leader and as a person.

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Leadership Launch, Pt. 3

For my Junior year we, as always, had the opportunity of being a part of a “LEAD” Team. LEAD Teams are part of the Leader Advancement Scholarship protocol where LAS Scholars get the opportunity to be a part of an intercohort team that works to put together a volunteer event. Our LEAD Team was in charge of putting on the Leadership Launch event. Leadership Launch is an event that brings in high school students, with and without intellectual disabilites, from all over Michigan together as an event to emphasize the impact they have and the importance of inclusion.

Previous years, I was the leader of one of the groups and my job was to lead the group from breakout session to breakout session and have meaningful discussions with them about the discussions. However, this year I took on a new role and was able to facilitate the Vison breakout session with my mentor, James Barber.  James and I have had a great relationship since high school and have maintained it through our time at Central, so being able to facilitate with him worked out great.

For our breakout session, vision, our goal was to have students learn about the importance of empathy by acknowledging how every person may view the same situation from different perspectives and see the situation differently. Our breakout session was called “Zoom”  and began by everyone receiving the same photo but zoomed in a different amount. What we told the students was that the photos they had were all a part of a story and their job was to place the photos in order. The story would begin with a picture of a rooster and became so zoomed out by the end that you could see the entire globe.

Some groups were able to realize the photos were zoomed and solved it quickly and easily while others we had to give hints to. However, the substance of the activity came from the debrief that followed. James and I focused on how this activity related to other peoples’ perspectives and how the students could implement what they learned into their school.

The opportunity to debrief and facilitate was a great experience for me, for a couple of reasons. The first is, as a future educator, having the chance to speak to different groups, explain the excercise, and just facilitate in general was great practice for me. The second reason that this was especially beneficial for me was being able to listen to everybody’s input to the activity and hear what they had to learn helped me think about how I could do a better job of being empathetic and looking at others’ point of view more in depth.  Leadership Launch, for the third year in a row, was not only a blast, but helped me learn to be a more inclusive and considerate individual in everything I do.

 

 

Special Olympics College

Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about the Special Olympics. So, naturally, one of the first things I did on campus was join Special Olympics College, the organization on campus. My freshman year I spent as a general member and as the year came to and end it was suggested to me that I run for an e-board position. There were quite a few positions open, however, the one I ended up running for was Student Government Association (SGA). As I said when I ran for the position, my role on e-board extended beyond just representing SO College at SGA but also taking on a larger role throughout SO College. During the past year, I was able to take on a larger role in the organization. This included participating in many more unified sports and, of course, taking on my role of SGA representative.

One of my favorite parts of being part of the Special Olympics College is unified sports. For those who are not familiar with it, unified sports are intramural sports played with half Special Olympics athletes and half Central Michigan students. These sports includeUnifiedUnified Flag basketball, flag football, volleyball, kickball, and more. I took every opportunity I had to participate in these games which allowed me to take on a larger role in the organization and develop a relationship with the athletes.

One of the best moments of unified sports was heading down to Western Michigan University for a regional tournament. This allowed my relationship with the athletes that participated in the tournament to increase and gave me an outstanding opportunity with unified sports. The sprinkles on top of the sundae were that we took first place and will soon head down to Ohio State for the national tournament. Unified has been a wonderful opportunity for me and something that I have had a blast with.

Overall, I have cherished my participation with Special Olympics College on campus. SO College has provided me with countless opportunities to grow and limitless fun and priceless interactions with the athletes. In fact, one of my proudest moments of my Sophomore year was all my hard work as an SGA Rep paying off when I received a grant for over $1,000 to pay every member of our organization’s way to the Winter Games. This made all my hard work pay off and gave me a priceless reward for the effort I put in. When elections came up this year I was looking to take on a larger role in the organization. As a result, I ran for President and was lucky enough to be elected as the President for next year. I cannot wait for my involvement in the organization to grow and take on the role of President of SO College.