Age Isn’t a Predictor for Success

Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith are members of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee.  They were recently asked to co-author one of the 11 Practice Briefs, focusing on School Climate and Inclusion.  

Clem and kaitlyn

Often times when society thinks of “valuable contributors” to issues, discussions and insights, the first image that appears in their mind is one of a well-educated and experienced adult; very rarely is that intuition one of a young person. Youth are constantly told and often led to believe that they are “the leaders of tomorrow,” but what about today? Youth are the ones in the schools, collaborating with educators, and hold the power to make a change.

The magic of Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is the belief in young people to identify challenges in schools, co-create solutions, implement these strategies and reflect on its impact.  Young people of all abilities have valuable insights and can contribute innovative ideas, but we must re-orientate our expectations of how their talent can be best utilized.

The National School Climate Center (NSCC) has worked with youth leaders, like us, from Project UNIFY and has seen our potential.  With our extensive experience and interest in areas concerning School Climate and Inclusion, the NSCC asked us to author a Practice Brief encompassing our experiences, thereby providing strategies and practices that students, educators and the whole school community can further advance.

Below are some of our favorite excerpts from this 4-page Practice Brief. We encourage you to take a deeper look – the brief can be found in conjunction with other briefs on equity and shared leadership here:

Inclusion is a set of best practices and shared values that meaningfully support the diversity that each person brings to the school.

Students are the ones who have the power to alter the school climate in either a negative or positive way, based upon their perception of what a school climate should feel like. Students hold the power to make it either socially acceptable or unacceptable to unite with their fellow classmates who have differences.

At the center of Inclusion is the notion that diversity is an ever-growing phenomenon that evokes a need for the community to cultivate global citizenship in today’s students.


To My Friend…

The beautiful poem below was written by 14-year old Project UNIFY youth leader Raven McCombs from North Carolina.

Special Olympics athlete Taylor Stickle listens on as Raven McCombs reads her poem.

Special Olympics athlete Taylor Stickle listens on as Raven McCombs reads her poem.

Your spirit has taught me that we are so far behind, you face challenges that don’t compare to mine.

I am in awe of all of your courage, you never seem to get discouraged.

We all often just walked on by, and never noticed the light in your eye.

You always accept us for who we are, and he is the reason we have made it this far.

It is my honor to call you a friend, a friend I’ll be there for them beginning to end.

Not another day will go by where you have to sit and wonder why.

I’ll be there for you, you’ll be there for me. Our trust is the clue and our love is the key.