For this reason, we find that young people are some of the most powerful and effective advocates on behalf of acceptance. Sometimes, starting at a very early age.
Cristina Riciu, 10, and Gabriela Matei, 8, are a perfect example of how youth can lead. On their first day of school in Romania, the girls became best friends. But Gabriela’s parents were concerned about the friendship, because Cristina has Down syndrome. At school, during Get Into It classes, Gabriela took notes. Later, she spoke to her parents about Cristina’s chances to become a great athlete and a spokesperson for people with special needs. Now, Gabriela’s parents feel her friendship with Cristina makes her a better person, willing to defend her beliefs.
Everywhere Special Olympics youth outreach is active, young people of all ages are learning about themselves and how to best serve their communities. They see opportunity and hope for a more accepting world, and they begin see their role in making this world possible.
Like middle school student Tommy Oreste. Tommy learned more about what life was really about from his friend and Special Olympics athlete Adam than from his typically developing peers. And college student Stephen Roach credits his newfound confidence and self-esteem to the time he spent volunteering and learning from Special Olympics athletes in high school.