The following post is from Kara Fleming, an intern with Project UNIFY who spent her summer focused on the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.
There I was, fresh out of high school, vying for an internship in Washington, D.C., as an incoming college freshmen from middle-of-nowhere, Idaho. The odds were stacked but someone must have seen something in me they liked, because before I knew it, I was an intern for Special Olympics International.
It ended up being more than I ever could’ve dreamed. The city itself was amazing, and having the job in the first place was incredible, but it wasn’t until the last day that I finally put my finger on what made this summer so amazing.
It was the people.
- People like my bosses who took a leap of faith and believed that a young girl from Idaho could succeed working for an international organization in a huge city;
- People like my co-workers around the office who respectfully treated me and the other interns as colleagues worthy of respect, instead of just obnoxious college kids;
- People like the Wright Family, who poured their hearts (and musical talents) into the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign for the sake of inclusion for all;
- People like Ben and Terrel, athletes that work in the office, who break down stereotypes and barriers by their amazing work ethic and smiles that they freely give to everyone they meet;
- And, people like my roommates, who despite our radical differences in personality, philosophies, and geographical location, strove to include me and truly turn our group of interns into a family.
All these people truly embody the mission of Special Olympics and Project UNIFY. I learned more from watching this amazing group for two months than I ever could’ve if I’d had the same internship at another office. I learned that first and foremost, it is people like this who make Special Olympics what it is, and it is by focusing on them that the organization is able to have such an amazing impact. Every decision is made with people in mind. How can we make it a better experience for our athletes? How are we promoting respect, dignity, and inclusion? How are we creating an inclusive environment everywhere from the workplace to the playing field to the streets of cities across the world?
These people are just a sample of the people involved in the movement. There are many more like them, but these in particular are the ones who poured their time and energy into making me feel like a part of the Special Olympics staff, even if it was just for a summer. They are the reason why I will never forget this internship and why I can’t wait to continue being involved in Special Olympics.