Igniting Passion for Project UNIFY

Connor Moore is currently a freshman at his high school Salesianum in Wilmington, Delaware. He has been involved in Special Olympics as a Unified Partner since he was eight, and is also a member of the Delaware State YAC. Through Project UNIFY, Connor hopes to promote compassion and leadership to his peers.

Connor recently attended a Special Olympics Project UNIFY Regional Workshop in Rhode Island. Below he shares his experience.

Probably like every teenager on the planet would, I walked into this conference uneasy. I knew seven people out of the many that were there, and this was definitely new territory to me. Sure, Special Olympics is something I’m passionate about, but this was something unlike anything else. I could tell before I even arrived.

After a reassuring pat on the back from my friend Rachel, the athlete I was accompanying on the trip, we stepped into the hotel. We were attending the Project UNIFY Regional Spring Workshop in Providence, Rhode Island. The first thing I laid eyes on was, true to my nature, the cookies and iced tea laying out for the arriving delegations. The ultimate way, as far as I’m concerned, to start three days worth of workshops.

Actually, the word “workshop” is probably one of the worst ways to describe the seminars we attended. A workshop, frankly, sounds boring and tedious to sit in. My Project UNIFY experience was anything but! Hours, sessions, meals, and discussions flew by; leaving me with tons of ideas and inspiration to bring back to my home state of Delaware.

Essentially, it was at 2:00am when I had my “bingo moment.” I was staring at my ceiling, taking in all I had experienced that day. At that very moment I realized why 14 different states were here in Rhode Island; why we were missing school for the week. Teenagers across the nation are incredibly alike, and those with a cognitive disability are no different. We all go to high school every week; it’s not something unusual to us. It is definitely familiar territory. Yet, even in a familiar environment, some teenagers walk into school everyday with that same uneasy feeling I had when walking into the conference. A disability is a silly reason to feel uneasy and not at home in your own high school!

I explained this idea to my roommate, and he couldn’t have agreed more. It had finally clicked with me, and left me with renewed passion to do everything I could to involve Project UNIFY more in my local program. The fire was started, so to speak, and the world is going to be an inferno by the time I am done with it!

Leaving the conference was probably my least favorite part. How I wished it were a weeklong workshop! I enjoyed every second of it; from the food, to the workshops, to the people I met. It was not going to be easy to leave. However, a farewell cookie and iced tea seemed to do the trick!

In short, three days in Warwick, RI taught me how to motivate, educate, and activate peers throughout my state and effective methods of doing so. I left inspired to take on anything in order to promote acceptance and leadership in my community.

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