At the invitation of North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, Special Olympics North Carolina hosted its inaugural EKS Day celebration on September 24th with a reception for more than 200 at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, NC, including 70 Project UNIFY® youth attending from throughout the state for the first-ever Youth Summit.
North Carolina youth wear their “Choose to Fuse” shirts with pride.
Kelsey Knight, a member of the SONC Youth Activation Council and Morehead Scholar freshman at UNC-CH, spoke at the reception on behalf of Project UNIFY and issued a challenge to the youth during the kickoff for the Summit. She said, “For everything that you have done thus far, I challenge you to work even harder in achieving new goals. Find new, creative ways to get your student body involved with Project UNIFY and keep those already involved excited! Draw attention to your cause with school-wide campaigns, partner clubs or something that is totally new. If you cannot think of anything you can do to gain interest, give away free things! Water bottles, t-shirts it doesn’t matter. Take it from me as a freshman at UNC, you will be amazed at the people that will show up at your interest meeting. Furthermore, seize opportunities to truly get to know the athletes, and I hope you see the difference their presence makes in your life. Don’t be discouraged if your time in high school is limited to only one more year. Use the time you have to make Project UNIFY the best it can possibly be as well as make plans for its sustainability. Recruit underclassmen who can continue in your footsteps after you graduate. Also know that your work with Special Olympics does not have to end once you receive your (high school) diploma, mine hasn’t.”
Dr. June Atkinson, Superintendent of the NC Department of Public Instruction and honorary chairwoman of SONC’s Project UNIFY initiatives, congratulated the youth on their leadership roles in the Special Olympics movement and pledged her support in educating school administrators about Project UNIFY.
After the reception, the youth attended a fun-filled pizza dinner that included bowling at The Alley, a popular 1950’s-style bowling alley located across the street from NC State University.
EKS Day on September 25 featured the Youth Summit with sessions led by the SONC Youth Activation Council, which planned the first-ever summit. With a theme of “Choose to Fuse!” the youth took part in eight sessions throughout the day that provided education of Special Olympics and Project UNIFY, motivation through the Power of Words, and activation discussions about fundraising opportunities, Unified Sports®, and involving fellow students in new clubs. The Youth Summit concluded with a motivational session that included the youth offering their perspectives on the summit on a giant Wall Board banner.
National Youth Activation Committee members Danielle Liebl of Minnesota and Jenny Zhong of Philadelphia assisted North Carolina’s Youth Activation Council with the summit.
After the summit, Jenny wrote “Reading over the chalk talk responses at the end of the day was just a further affirmation of how much of an impact Special Olympics has had on people's lives. One response I noticed in particular to the question "Why do you choose to fuse?" was "Someone has to". That comment hit me really hard just thinking about the sense of duty and righteousness coming from within the summiteers. It was really interesting talking to everyone. I was so surprised that so many of them had never before been involved with Special Olympics, but I almost couldn't tell from their energy and creativity in the activities.”
Schools may register for the 2010-11 Project UNIFY year through October 15 by contacting Keith Fishburne at Kfishburne@sonc.net.