Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Go for the Gold

Name: Kennedy Stovall
From: Plainville, MA
Grade: 11
School: King Philip Regional High School
Votes: 0

In my second year coaching gymnastics at the Special Olympics Summer
Games, I was thrilled Riley remembered her beam routine. A skill that
is straight-forward for most, is challenging for Riley, a young lady
with Down Syndrome. Reflecting on my first year as Riley’s coach,
I vividly recall the Artistic Gymnastics Program Manager letting me
know Riley had four other coaches prior to me leave the program due
to her high-spirited temperament. However, I agreed to coach Riley
because I love the sport, and I also wanted to help her succeed as a
gymnast. Riley and I practice an hour each Saturday from September
to June, and this is my sixth year working with her. I successfully
earned the respect and trust of Riley during that first year, and
I’ve continued building a relationship with her.

One day Riley wanted to practice a new skill, a back-walkover. Since she
already had a bridge-kick-over, I thought it would be a
straightforward skill for Riley to learn. But I was wrong. Each
week I encouraged Riley and she worked hard on her journey to “win
the gold.” It wasn’t easy, and at times, I would get frustrated
with myself because I wasn’t able to help her get the skill. After
about seven weeks of working on it, Riley came to me and told me she
would “never get the new skill.” I reassured her and told her to
stay motivated and keep working hard on it. I told her that I also
face similar challenges when I work on new skills but I keep my head
up and keep working on them until I master them. She accepted my
advice and worked really hard that week. The following week she got
it! I was so happy for her. I reminded her that dedication and
persistence always pay off in the end.

I love coaching gymnastics and supporting others to achieve their
goals. Throughout the six years I have coached her, I have learned a
lot about her. She is a year younger than me and is funny, smart,
and strong willed. I know trust is vital to building relationships
with others and sometimes people need to be encouraged to go after
their dreams. All you need to do is work hard to accomplish it.
Riley provided me with opportunities to be a responsible leader,
trusting friend, passionate coach, and a cheerleader. I am happy to
say that I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Riley’s

The reason I volunteered to be a coach at Special Olympics was because I
wanted to help children with special needs. I wanted to help them
achieve success in a sport that I love. What I didn’t realize at
the time was how much I would learn personally through this
experience. This experience has taught me so much and helped shape
who I am today which will benefit me in college, in my future career
as an educator and personal life forever.

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