The following guest blog comes from Juan L., a partner at Neuqua Valley High School and a co-chair of the Special Olympics Illinois Youth Activation Committee.
Everyone was cheering, and people surrounded us yelling congratulations, giving us high fives, and big hugs. We felt like we were on top of the world for a moment, it was truly one of the best feelings in the world.
Our names are Juan and Liam and we are two of the co-chairs for Project UNIFY. The cheering and praise was a result of our fantastic first place prize in our schools dance competition, Neuqua Knows It Can Dance. It was our third year doing the dance competition and it has always been a blast with a mix of friends with intellectual disabilities and their peers.
This year we wanted it to be perfect, so we started early practicing and practicing till we coud do the dance in our sleep. Although, we had never won before and didn’t expect to this year (since we exceeded the maximum amount of people in a group allowed) it came to our surprise when they announced the winners of this years dance competition. The moment they said “PEER PARTNER ROCKSTARS” our entire group erupted in cheers and all of our peers were equally ecstatic.
Looking back on that night I could truly appreciate the hard work we all put into it, to show that people with intellectual disabilities are able to accomplish the same things that other people can do. When we were talking about that night, Liam said his favorite part was when everybody cheered for him. In our society many people don’t realize the potential and awesome talent that Special Olympics athletes have and it feels great to finally be recognized.
That entire week we were treated like royalty in the halls and everyone kept telling us how great we looked and how well organized it was. Liam and I felt so proud not only on our victory, but on our school’s support. It is good to know that our school not only has a program for students with intellectual disabilities, but encourages them as well. The last day of that week we were able to perform at the school pep rally in front of four thousand students. I think that was when we really shined, and not just because of our neon costumes.
Our dance not only showed that we had mad dance skills, but that students with intellectual disabilities are capable of amazing things and that together we can be even greater.