In March 2020, total of 20 Youth Leaders with and without intellectual disabilities, along with their mentors, met in Guatemala City to participate in the first Regional Youth Leadership Summit, where they’ll share ideas on how to create a more inclusive world. This diverse gathering of youth leaders represented a total of 10 Programs from Special Olympics Latin America.
The event started with an Opening Ceremony which included the participation of Pamela Molina, Specialist in Disability for the Organization of American States; Rebeca Arias, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Guatemala; Reginaldo Sierra, National Head Scout for Scouts Guatemala; Claudia Echeverry, President and Regional Director of Special Olympics Latin America; representatives from various partners of the Movement, members of the diplomatic corps, special guests, panelists and celebrities.
In her opening remarks, Claudia Echeverry addressed the Youth Leaders to emphasize the importance of their active role in Special Olympics. “We believe in you, and we know you can achieve an expanding impact in your communities. Your youth activism and commitment can create important changes in your community. We are here to listen to your voices, provide new tools and a platform upon which you can build a solid network, implanting innovative ideas to inspire people all across the region. During these four days, you have the opportunity to be heard. Tell us your needs and desires. Share your innovative ideas and your plans, to turn them into actions,” she said.
Pamela Molina had everyone enthralled with her speech. “You are not here by chance. You are not here to keep thinking about how someone needs to do ‘something about thing’s. You are here because you, youth, are ‘doing something.’ Together, we can really bring about change to the world. We’re done waiting; now it’s time to do.”
Inclusive youth leadership is when young people of all abilities are given opportunities to be leaders in their schools and communities. These leadership activities help students find their voices and teach them to become change agents in their communities by promoting equity and acceptance. Social inclusion is best fostered when activities within the classroom, school, and community are designed and implemented by a diverse group of students within a school.