A Story of Transformation

Being a part of Project UNIFY, I get to read a lot of stories about Special Olympics impacting students and school communities across the U.S. I constantly hear great stories of success where students with intellectual disabilities are respected and treated as equals in their school. Sadly, I also read things that illustrate how much work we still have to do. But on a Friday afternoon, I want to share one story of transformation that gives me hope that change can, and will, happen.

Be inspired by Elementary student Kayla Davis and her journey to understanding:

Kayla (right) with partner Maron

“When I was first asked if I wanted to help the Special Education kids with Physical Education last year, my answer was a resounding no my reasons being that I was fearful and had no experience with Special Ed kids. They were scary, and gross. Why would I want to help them? But the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself to try it, just once. My teacher and my parents backed me up completely, but still I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it because I felt uncomfortable and scared. I knew nothing about Special Ed in general and had planned on never interacting with the kids. I had what you could call the “public opinion.” But as I soon found out, being a PE helper was very different than I thought.

The moment I walked into the gym, I knew it was nothing like I had expected. I had thought they would have trouble walking, let alone doing the things we, the 5th and 6th graders were doing. They played volleyball, soccer, basketball, and everything else we learned. I was entirely surprised. I soon learned their names; Jenna, Maron, Jodie, Jacob, Andy, and Riley. This year we have 3 new kids too. I was paired up with Jenna, a spirited kindergartener. It was fun going there every Tuesday and Thursday. I grew to look forward to it, treasuring the half-hour I had to spend with these students. My favorite part was watching the improvements while they were learning. I got my buddy from just looking at the basketball, to pushing it upward!

My view of the Special Ed kids changed greatly. They weren’t a different race; they were normal people with a special perk. One of the things that changed my perception was interacting with them. They laughed, cried, and loved, just like us. As I continue working with them this year, (this year my partner is Maron), I continue to enjoy it, more than ever because I have learned more about how to understand them. In addition to PE helpers, our school has recently formed a Partners Club, working with Special Olympics and Project Unify. I am proud to say that my whole class is involved in this amazing opportunity. I hope that if you ever have an amazing opportunity that you try it, just once.”
– Kayla Davis, Boise, Idaho

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4 thoughts on “A Story of Transformation

  1. I am so proud of Kayla and the rest of our Partners Club!! What a great experience to see one of our students expressing the change that Project Unify has made in our school. It’s so fantastic to see this change in person, but to be able to see it shared with our world is amazing. Shout out to our fantastic Boise, Idaho school!

  2. What a great story! Thank you, Kayla, for sharing your insights and for your involvement in this program. Thanks for reminding us that stepping out of our “comfort zone” can be rewarding to ourselves and others in ways we never imagined. So proud of you … and your entire class!

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