As students finish up their final tests and get ready for summer to officially begin, we wanted to share an amazing reflection from Special Olympics Rhode Island’s Youth Activation Committee Chair, Karolyn Sundberg. As Karolyn readies herself to transition from high school to college, she shares some powerful insights on the positive impact of Project UNIFY throughout her high school experience.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
As senior year and my time as Special Olympics Rhode Island’s Youth Activation Committee chair comes to a close – this quote offers advice that I will soon have to take.
Reflecting on this past year as Chair of the Youth Activation Committee (YAC) – there have been countless wonderful memories – new experiences, goals reached, friendships made, and people who were inspired to come together for a truly amazing cause. I am so incredibly proud of and moved by the devoted young leaders of our SORI Project UNIFY movement; so proud of those individuals who have been so dedicated to working on all of our projects this year. Now our goal is to continue to reach out to youth in our state to spread the ideas of inclusion, unity, and acceptance.
I am exceedingly grateful for such a wonderful experience.
My involvement with Special Olympics began in the fall of my junior year. I was assigned to help plan the SORI annual Youth Forum and immediately fell in love with the atmosphere that surrounded Special Olympics and everyone involved. While at this point there were only about 15 members and meeting attendance was sparse, we still began to see how powerful and motivating youth could be when it came to promoting inclusion and unity in their high schools. At my first YAC meeting of this year – I was awed to see how many students had eagerly come out to get involved with the program. In just one year, our YAC had grown so large that it was divided into 5 regions, where each region was assigned to different tasks and projects. Through the YAC, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the kindest, hardest working students from every corner of the state. All of us had one common purpose – to speak out for equality and acceptance among students with and without disabilities.
I remember at the first YAC meeting - it seemed as if there was so much to be done. However, I never would have imagined that we would have been able to achieve some of the things we did this year. The YAC planned and organized a Youth Forum for athletes, partners and coaches to learn about ways to promote inclusion and inspire unity. We planned and organized the very first Middle School Youth Forum in the Nation. We created a statewide newsletter to share our stories of success and spread the word about our cause. Also, we successfully encouraged high school students to participate and support the Torch Run Plunge and Spread the Word to End the Word campaign in their schools. We had record numbers participate in both of events.
Most importantly, this year as the YAC chair, I witnessed how Special Olympics touches the lives and hearts of so many people in so many ways. I experienced firsthand the difference it makes. Special Olympics taught me to embrace differences and recognize talents in everyone. I now realize the importance of the positivity and support Special Olympics offers to everyone and the confidence one can find inwardly after becoming involved. I continue to be inspired by the work the SORI YAC is doing and am honored to have had the chance to be a part of such a great group of people.
I know that my involvement with Special Olympics is something that will not end, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.