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2021 Taught Me About Change

Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy

As I look back on 2021, I think a big lesson for me this year was about facing CHANGE and embracing my new future. If we keep looking back, we miss out on opportunities that are before us.

Change is Moving

Change, for me, began in my workplace as familiar people left and new people took their place. As much as I don't like change, I reminded myself that it is important to let new people in. If you don’t, you miss out on the opportunity to make new friends and learn something new from them. Change continued as my job moved locations from downtown Honolulu to their new facility in Ewa Beach. While this was exciting, it was also hard for me because I really liked our location in town. I could see the beautiful Ko’olau Mountains from my window, but my faith enabled me to keep moving forward, to see what’s out there.

A Special Olympics athlete sits at a desk and smiles.

Then change took me from the beautiful Aloha state of Hawai’i to the Lone Star State of Texas.

This was a big adjustment for me considering I’ve lived in Hawaii for 16 years, but I learned that adjusting to a new place can be exciting and scary at the same time. I used what I learned at my job with Special Olympics Hawaii and looked forward, towards learning about Special Olympics Texas. SO Texas is huge, just like the state, and I hope this will mean more opportunities for me to make an impact about the importance of inclusion.

Two people sit at a round table and smile at the camera.
Renee (right) poses for a picture with Special Olympics Texas CEO, Tim Martin (left).

Change is the Zoom Impact

As we all know, travel was not the same in 2021 but I sure traveled through Zoom.

New roles opened for me through this virtual world that I could never have imagined and I have been able to be more involved nationally and globally. These roles included being hired as a Consultant with the Organizational Excellence and Health team at Special Olympics International, presenting at the 2021 Hybrid Home and Community Based Services Conference with Cindy Bently, Dr. Steve Lutzky, & Dr. Sara Karon, continuing my work as an Impact Trainer for Tammy Evrard Consulting, presenting at the SPIN Conference in Hawai’i and being on the Advisory Board for the Valuable 500. All in all, I think that it is safe to say that we are still able to make a positive impact through Zoom.

Renee Manfredi - Dec. 2021 Blog Zoom Impact.png
Renee continued to make an impact via Zoom, as part of the Valuable 500 Advisory Board (left) and the Special Olympics Inclusive Health team (right).

Change is Raising Awareness

Did you know that persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are almost six times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population? This is just one of the alarming health statistics that individuals with IDD face every day. I am so thankful for the work that SO is doing to make enormous strides towards inclusive health, but there is still a long way to go for all persons with IDD to have good health care outcomes. Through my new role with the Special Olympics inclusive health team, I will be able to continue to raise awareness for inclusive health for persons with IDD and continue working on my platform for inclusive health as an SSIGM.

Change is Breaking Down Barriers

Surveys show that unemployment among people with intellectual disabilities (ID) is more than twice as high as for the general population. A substantial proportion of adults with ID have never been in the workforce and 28% of working age adults with ID have never held a job.

Renee Manfredi - Dec. 2021 Blog Unified Leadership.jpg
Renee has helped with presentations on Unified Leadership.

Unfortunately, many people with ID are unable to achieve their leadership potential because of the attitudes, behaviors, and low expectations of people without disabilities and the gifts and abilities of people like me with ID often go unnoticed. These are some of the barriers that persons with ID face in the workplace every day. I hope to help break down these barriers as I work with the Unified Leadership team at Special Olympics. I have been co-facilitating trainings in the Unified Leadership approach with United Airlines.

You may be wondering “what is the Unified Leadership approach”? I’m so glad you asked. “Unified Leadership teaches leaders without disabilities to value and learn from people with intellectual disabilities; to make changes and create environments where people with intellectual disabilities get opportunities to have meaningful jobs and roles in the workplace." I am so excited about the Unified Leadership approach because I believe this approach will help us learn from each other and this will create true inclusion in the workplace.

Change is the Future

As I move forward into 2022, may I remember the words of our founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver as I continue in my work towards a more inclusive world:

You are the stars, and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
A Special Olympics athlete poses for a photo in front of a large red circle with the Special Olympics logo on it.

Renee says "Hello 2022!"

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