Name: Nathan James Roskelley
From: Lehi, Utah
Grade: High School Junior
School: Utah County Academy of Science
About three years ago, I heard about a program called SNAP, the Special Needs Activity Program. Every week, autistic and down syndrome kids would come to a church building, and have fun doing whatever activity was prepared for them. I signed up to be a youth counselor, and have gone for an hour and a half, every week since I started. I could see my mood, and overall life improving as I kept going, but my first challenge came about a year in, during one of the dances.
I was only 14 at the time, but after going to a few dances, was comfortable asking the special needs girls to dance, and trying my best to keep a conversation, even when they were too shy to talk back. At one point, there was an autistic guy walking around, and giving everyone a hug. I thought it was very sweet of him, and when he came to me, I gave him a hug back. But I got a bit more than I expected: I got my first kiss.
The ridicule my friends gave me for having my first kiss with a guy was enough to make me seriously consider never going back. But, thinking back on the great look on the special needs kids’ faces when I helped them with their art project, talking to those who didn’t have many friends, and the improvement my life when I helped made me need to go back. I went regularly, and didn’t miss a day. Besides, I was chosen at random. There was almost no chance of me having my second kiss there too.
It was the valentines dance of 2016, and I had just had a close encounter, where a special needs girl started dancing really close to me. I should have stopped there, but there was a lonely down syndrome girl in the corner who looked like she needed a friend. I asked her to dance, and started asking the yes or no questions I was required to. Anything more, would be too complicated for most of these people. At the end of the song, she gave me a big hug, and started violently kissing me on the neck. When I got home, there was chocolate all over my collar.
My friends keep telling me “Third time is the charm!” but there was the implication that it would only be true if I never went back to SNAP. But doing service isn’t about helping others less fortunate than yourself by giving all of your extra time and extra supplies, it’s about helping even when you don’t think you can give any more. I still go to SNAP, and have never regretted the decision to keep going. And no matter what happens, I never will.