Abby Wild and Tom Kuhn – Matea Valley High School
Tom and Abby have known each other since 7th grade when they met in Mr. Clifford’s 1st period Social Studies class. However, they didn’t stay in touch until both of them got selected to be a part of the Unified Champion’s school’s Youth Activation Committee (YAC). Their partnership grew when they were selected as co-chairs for YAC. Since then, they have played on Matea Valley’s first unified basketball team. Their successful partnership helped the team win 2nd place in the state competition. This year they are continuing their roles as co-chairs on YAC and planning on being a part of the school’s Unified Basketball Team.
Cori Hoekstra and Daequan Wilson – Homewood Flossmoor HS
DQ and Cori met during the Chicago Fire Unified Soccer team tryouts. Both Cori and DQ made the team and started seeing each other more and more in and outside of school. They had the opportunity to travel with the unified soccer team to Boston, Massachussetts. They toured with the team around Boston before ultimately playing against the Boston Unifed Soccer team. After returning home, both students joined their high school unified soccer team. As partners, they also participate in the “Just Like You” club which promotes inclusion, life skills, and social activities. Through these various activities DQ and Cori are a part of their leadership team for the Special Olympics YAC. Throughout the time on the committee they have to work together to create a presentation which will result in them growing closer and feeding off each other to improve various skills. These programs have not only developed a close friendship, but they are also learning leadership skills which they hope to use to make a positive impact on their school and community environments.
Jillian Windbiel and Dominic Gomes – Margaret Mead Jr. High
Dominic and Jillian met in 7th grade language arts class. They really didn’t know each other well until they both got into Club Unify. During Club Unify, they started talking to each other and got to learn more about each other. During language arts class, they had the opportunity to work together for several projects. This helped them to form a friendship. Even though they weren’t in the same clubs, they still saw each other during after school activities. The Youth Activation Committee Bootcamp gave them many opportunities to work together. Jillian joined Special Olympics because she wants to help promote inclusion and respecting differences. Dominic joined Special Olympics because he wanted to socialize and work together with other people. It is important to both Dominic and Jillian to include others and not just see a person’s disability, but who they really are. Dominic is glad he met Jillian at Mead and is working with her at Special Olympics.
Esther Crandell and Andrea Ramirez – Downer’s Grove South
On November 11th, Andrea and Esther met. They weren’t sure how the weekend would go since they hadn’t ever met before. On they way down to the Summit, we all got hungry. The lunch stop was where many memories were made. As the day progressed Andre and Esther became better friends. They both became more relaxed and felt more comfortable around each other. They danced at the Summit and had lots of fun. When the weekend ended, their friendship did not end. The Monday that followed they saw each other in the hallway. Esther couldn’t help but wonder how many times they had passed in the hallway before. The next semester Esther was able to work in Andrea’s classroom. Andrea was so excited she would see Esther for the rest of the year. Although their friendship didn’t stop there, they also had unified basketball together after school. They became so excited about the summit they applied to be leaders. Special Olympics Illinois has given Esther and Andrea the gift of being friends.
Elena and Emily -Metea Valley
Emily joined Special Olympics her freshmen year. Her first sport was swimming, and since then she has also played basketball, track, and bowling. She joined Special Olympics because she wanted to make more friends. She loves Special Olympics because she gets to see her friends, make new ones, and have fun! Elena started Special Olympics her junior year because she enjoyed her peer partner’s class and wanted to do more. Her first sport was unified basketball and since then she has also been a part of bowling and track. Elena and Emily met during bowling, but never really had a chance to talk before YAC. Emily joined YAC this year but went to the summit last year. She loved the summit so much she wanted to be a bigger part of it. This is Elena’s first year on YAC. She joined to continue working with Speical Olympics and already loves it. Emily and Elena were paired up to work together this year and because of this they have gotten to spend more time together and become closer friends. They are both really excited to continue working on the YAC and to continue their friendship.
Anyia and Reyonna – Kankakee High School
Reyonna and I met my first year of high school. I always had a passion for helping others and doing whatever I can to make someone smile. One day, I was in the hallway and Reyonna didn’t seem happy so I asked her what was wrong. She said people were picking on her and I gave her a hug. My Aunt is a teacher for students with special needs so I asked her about Reyonna. Two weeks later, Best Buddies started. I was so excited to help out. Reyonna and I were paired up as Best Buddies and by the end of the year we were playing unified sports together. The next year came and I was able to help coach the team. My passion for Special Olympics grew and grew. I got a chance to experience my first summit. Reyonna presented and I was so proud of her. We continued to play unified sports and our friendship continued to grow. Now this year we are both YAC members and co-chairs for YAC. I am positive that we will continue to grow and do great things. One simple question has led to a friendship and life long commitment.
Kaylie and Aiden – Kankakee High School
Most people’s stories started between a year to a lifetime ago, but our story begins now. We’ve seen each other in club meetings around school and even outside of school, but this is our first time being partnered together. In fact, this is one of the first times that we’ve really had a conversations. However, that doesn’t make us any less of partners than anyone else. From now until the summit, we will be getting to know each other better and working together often. Aiden hasn’t been on the committee before and he is kind of nervous about it. I was on the committee last year and already know how things will go down. So I hope to be able to help with his nerves. We are going to work together to not only make a great presentation, but to help Aiden be more comfortable with the committee and me. We hope to gain not only new knowledge from this experience but form a lasting friendship as well. We’ve already learned quite a bit about each other and we are eager to learn more. This is not a reluctant partnership or a work partnership, but true partnership. The best partnership is one that is a friendship as well.
Brianna Cooper and Ashlyn Porter – Lincoln Middle School
Our story started off with Brianna going into Ashlyn’s classroom. While in there, Brianna and Ashlyn were able to meet and play Connect Four. They realized they have a lot in common. When they see each other in the hall they always say Hi to each other. In Mrs. Smith’s room we play games and talk about what we did over the weekend. This is the first time both of them have been on the YAC. At the bootcamp, Ashlyn and Brianna became very good friends. They learned a lot of new and funny things together. Ashlyn and Brianna met many new friends that will last a lifetime. On this committee we have learned a lot of new things like how to keep our partnerships strong. This committee helps us improve and keep growing our friendships. Ashlyn learned Brianna loves her dog Buddy and likes sherbert ice cream. Brianna learned Ashlyn has a boxer name Boston and she is an older sister. Partnerships and friendships last a lifetime.
Mulenga and Emily – Edwardsville High school
Mulenga and Emily have known each other since the beginning of their high school careers. Emily enjoys spending her time in one of her school’s special education teacher’s classroom. Making friends with each other was quite easy for both of them because they are both quite social butterflies and love making new friends. Mulenga is great at making friends by seeking out interest from the people she talks to so they bonded fast. Emily was a part of the a community service club that focuses on peers with special needs in her school. They put on events such as prom, birthday celebrations, bonding events, homecoming parade, and more where Mulenga and Emily’s friendship strengthened. We are looking forward to celebrating together to create more events in our school that promote inclusion and bringing ideas to our school and community.