In 2008, the National Youth Activation Committee (YAC) was started by a group of young people with and without intellectual disabilities who had a passion for social change and a desire to make the world more accepting of ALL people. This summer, the founding members ended their final term on the National YAC. While we’re sad to lose their amazing leadership and dedication, we know they’ll never be far from Special Olympics… they are part of our family.
Founding member Samantha Huffman reflects on her experience as a National Youth Activation Committee member below.
Growing up, Special Olympics was always part of my life. I began as a partner when I was eight years old and my involvement continued to grow as I did. As a senior in high school, my involvement went further than I ever thought it would. I was chosen as one of the founding members for Project UNIFY’s National Youth Activation Committee.
When I went to the first meeting in Washington, D.C., I honestly had no idea of what to expect. I was about to meet the nation’s top youth leaders in Special Olympics. I couldn’t help but wonder if I truly belonged with this group. But once I arrived, all of my doubts melted away. The people I met were not only incredible leaders, they were also extraordinary people. We instantly formed a bond that is still present four years later. We formed a bond that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Through this bond, our leadership skills, and our passion for Special Olympics, we became an unstoppable force.
Two national summits; one global summit; numerous how-to documents for youth leaders on topics such as summit, rallies, state YACs, etc.; presentations at many different youth conferences. The list goes on and on.
The work we accomplished in four short years in unbelievable.
Personally, the role I had within this has changed my life. In a few days I will start my senior year in college. I have an Elementary Education major and a psychology minor. Since I was two I have wanted to be a teacher. But with the realization of everything I have been through and accomplished with Special Olympics, my goal has changed. I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school to get a masters in social work with a concentration of social change. Now what can I possibly want to do with that? 😉
Whether it be with Special Olympics or another like-minded organization, one thing is certain: I am here to stay in the disability movement. My fight for social justice isn’t stopping with the end of my YAC term.
It is my passion. It is my career. It is my life.
Thank you Project UNIFY for providing me with lifelong friends and an unwavering belief in social justice. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.