Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – My Most Meaningful Volunteer Experience

Name: Charlotte Spencer
From: Celebration, Fl
Grade: 11
School: Celebration High School
Votes: 0

My
most meaningful volunteer experience:

Last
year I joined a brand-new organization within our community, marking
the first year of Special Olympics at Celebration High School. The
group, Project Unify, aims at connecting the mentally challenged and
regular student body in activities that promote teamwork, and
friendship. We played basketball with a full team, and very
legitimate intensity. As a member of Best Buddies, I joined the group
because I wanted to form a stronger friendship with my buddy Cyril.
Our team would meet for regular practices after school, just like a
varsity sport, then meet other schools and compete in games. It
became obvious, by setting aside our differences, we were very
similar, especially in character – all competitive, dedicated to
improvement, and compassionate. I learned how sweet Cyril is, and so
soft spoken; he’s a gentle giant, at 6’7”. I’d never of known
of his love for basketball, go-fish, and caring for his 4 younger
brothers had it not been for the time as his equal on the court.


It
was an extremely humbling experience. Due to all these preconceptions
about people with mental disabilities, we think they should be awful
at sports and there’s no way they could compete with regular kids.
But those kids were skilled and sociable- so much so, you would have
little idea they struggled with a mental disability. From then on,
I’ve seen them as my equal. It instilled confidence in me as well
because they kicked my butt at basketball. Being amongst them feeling
accepted, and appreciated for their contributions, you saw how they
beamed with pride. I was proud to be a part of their success. As a
result, I have genuine friends I see every day at school. Cyril and I
love to build a Lego’s together, we work on them a few times every
week during lunch – the highlight of my day because it’s then I
know I have a pure friendship.  Without this volunteering with
Project Unify, I would’ve never found such a great friend in Cyril
or my other Best Buddies. I feel lucky to have such loyal friends and
I’m proud of their hard work, and perseverance. I owe it all to the
Special Olympics. 
This experience is
definitely beneficial for my future because I am heading into a
career of military service as an Army officer. In this position it is
important to practice tolerance because success is a priority and
teamwork is paramount. This experience helped round me and expand my
perceptions of success in the real world. I hope the friendships
built through this volunteering will encourage people with mental
disabilities to seek jobs and independence in their young adult
lives. If I were to run into one of my best buddies ten years from
now, I know the experience would have been worth it because I know
they would remember me and still value the friendship we built in
high school.


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