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Community Impact

Empowering Global Youth: The Stevens Initiative and Special Olympics Partnership

young man and mother figure are using a laptop.

Stevens Initiative and Special Olympics have joined forces to expand cross-cultural learning experiences for young people worldwide. Leveraging the Stevens Initiative's expertise in virtual exchange and Special Olympics' global network, this partnership aims to empower young leaders, with and without intellectual disabilities, to drive the inclusion movement in the digital age.

“Special Olympics is absolutely thrilled to be embarking on this journey with the Stevens Initiative. I am inspired by the potential of virtual exchange to democratize, to totally expand the reach and the access to the power of exchange so young people can become the agents of change, breaking down barriers and building a more inclusive world where everyone's abilities are celebrated.”
Jacqueline Jodl, Chief of Global Youth and Education, Special Olympics International

The partnership focuses on engaging key stakeholders, including young people, adult mentors, and Special Olympics staff, at the global, regional, and Program levels. By providing tools and knowledge, the initiative seeks to equip young people to become advocates for inclusion in their communities. Over a two-year period, the partnership plans to expand virtual exchange in the Special Olympics network, reaching over 8,000 young people and 4,700 educators and mentors across 30 countries.

The collaboration between Special Olympics and the Stevens Initiative is grounded in shared values and goals. Since its inception in 2015, the Stevens Initiative has been a leader in virtual exchange, promoting access and opportunity for young people to connect globally. Both organizations believe in the transformative power of gaining global perspectives and connections, which can broaden worldviews and foster self-confidence.

Through collaborative learning experiences and peer-to-peer connections, the partnership aims to build capacity within young people to become global leaders. By creating an international network of empowered youth and mentors, the initiative will continue to support leadership development across the globe.

“Building cultural awareness and essential leadership and global skills should not be limited to the few who have access to global experiences. A strategic partnership like the one we have with Special Olympics is such an important step for us. And creating a pathway where global experiences are a part of growing up for every young person.”
Christine Shiau, Executive Director, Stevens Initiative

Special Olympics, with its extensive reach and inclusive programming, is a natural partner for the Stevens Initiative. With programs spanning sport, education, health and leadership, Special Olympics has a profound impact on over 6 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in more than 190 countries. Together, these organizations are driving a movement for social inclusion, advocating for individuals with intellectual disabilities on a global scale.

The Stevens Initiative and Special Olympics partnership represents a powerful commitment to fostering cross-cultural experiences and empowering youth worldwide. By combining their strengths and resources, these organizations are paving the way for a more inclusive and connected future.

Special Olympics International’s United Virtual Exchange is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is housed at the Aspen Institute and is supported by the Bezos Family Foundation.

Logos: Stevens Initiative, Aspen Institute, Bezos Family Foundation, and Special Olympics

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