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Get Your Friends or School Involved

Young people know firsthand the pain of being left out, teased and excluded. They also are open-minded to new things and have the courage of conviction to step up and defend their beliefs. And they know how to have fun while doing it.

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Over 6,500 people at a youth rally join the 66 Special Olympics Global Youth Leaders from 30 countries around the world and say “Ima Mesa!” (I’m In!), to their Dignity Revolution.

Powerful and Effective Advocates

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.


Opening Minds

Special Olympics knows that young people without intellectual disabilities are the future policymakers, educators and business leaders of this world. We are committed to opening their minds and increasing their participation in the Special Olympics movement. Through a variety of programs, we offer many ways for young people to get involved, discover their voices as leaders and help change the world for the better.

Special Olympics' free Get Into It learning curriculum for schools K-12, implemented in countries around the world, celebrates the diverse gifts of every student, whatever his or her ability, and introduces young students to community service through a group service-learning project.

Special Olympics Youth Summits pair up students with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 12 to 17, and gather them as delegates to discuss ways to improve our movement and reverse negative stereotypes and attitudes about intellectual disability. Global Youth Summits cross cultural and geographical barriers to address issues of acceptance facing young people worldwide.

And Special Olympics Unified Sports teams bring athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together on the sports fields to learn from one another in a context of teamwork and participation.

What YOU Can Do

Special Olympics is proud of its long history working with, and learning from, young people around the world. Bring a Special Olympics Program to your school, download Get Into It, and check out Project UNIFY or SO College. Help us change more attitudes and open more doors for people with intellectual disabilities worldwide.

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“I’ve learned so much from Adam and I’m sure he’s learned some from me. If you take the time to make them your friend, they’re the same as everyone else.”


Tommy Oreste, Special Olympics Youth Summit participant

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