One of our first blog entries by the National Youth Activation Committee (YAC) members. Kaitlyn Smith is a member of Special Olympics Colorado YAC. She participated at National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha, Nebraska during the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. She recently joined the National YAC in the fall of 2010. Here is what her said about her first year on board the National YAC.
“Why did you decide to get involved with Special Olympics in your community, and what have you learned from this experience?” Staring at the question, I had so many thoughts and answers running through my head, but how could I possibly explain what I’ve learned from Special Olympics in a simple one-hundred words or less? When I think about Special Olympics, I don’t just think about an organization… It is so much more than that! It’s a family. This family has taught me so much, and helped me become who I am today. My journey through Special Olympics over the past four years has become what defines me as a person.
In December of 2009, I was introduced to the family of Special Olympics when I joined the Youth Activation Committee for Colorado. In a matter of months, I was selected to represent Special Olympics Colorado at the National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha Nebraska. The whole time I was in Nebraska, it felt surreal to me. Special Olympics was something that I loved, but when I was in a room packed with other people that had the same goals and feelings as me, I realized that Special Olympics was my passion. All of the sessions in Nebraska were led by a group of youth that had an amazing amount of drive, passion and enthusiasm. On one of the bus rides in Nebraska, I sat next to Clement, who was one of the youth helping run the Summit. I asked him questions about how he got involved, and he went on to tell me about how he was a member of the National Youth Activation Committee for Special Olympics and that this was just one of the things that they do. He told me all about the committee, and the amazing work that they have the opportunity to help with. It became my dream, and my goal to become a member.
About a month after the Youth Activation Summit in Nebraska, I got an email with an application to join the Youth Activation Committee. I was so excited to apply, but I wanted my application to be flawless. I spent hours trying to deconstruct questions like “Why did you decide to get involved with Special Olympics in your community, and what have you learned from this experience?” in an answer one-hundred words or less, and find the perfect adults to write me recommendations. I had friends and teachers edit my application several times, to make sure it was perfect before mailing it in.
After I mailed in my application I checked my email daily, hoping for an answer. Then one day when I logged into my email, there was an email from Joanne Maldonado with the subject “NYAC Selection.” I quickly opened it and read “Your application stood out to the committee and I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted for a two-year term as a new National Youth Activation Committee member.” I was beyond speechless. I read through the email several times before it finally sank in. I started calling everyone that knew I had applied and shared the amazing news with them (or rather screamed the amazing news at them, with much excitement). I knew this was an amazing opportunity for me to expand my love and passion for Special Olympics.
Now that I have been a member of the NYAC for eight months, looking back, I know that this has been one of the most amazing things that has ever happened in my life. Ever since my first NYAC meeting in Washington D.C., I immediately felt like a part of the “family”. As a new member (that didn’t really know what she was doing), I was asked to be a co-chair of the communications sub-committee and from there, all the members accepted me like I had been with them for years. I get to do work for Special Olympics at a national level that helps state programs around the country better the lives of their athletes. All the members on the NYAC have the same passion for Special Olympics and the same drive to make the lives of people with intellectual disabilities as inclusive and accepting as possible. The experiences that I have had so far as a NYAC member and the friendships I have gained are just the beginning. Special Olympics is my life, my love and my passion; and being a part of the National Youth Activation Committee will give me the opportunity to help Special Olympics in ways I didn’t know were possible.