Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2017 – The Impact of Others: How Unified Sports Saved My Life

Name: Jenna Knaupp
From: Forest Grove, Oregon
Grade: 10th grade
School: Forest Grove High School
Votes: 0

As
a pre-teen, I struggled a lot. I felt incredibly alienated from my

peers, and I found
joy in almost nothing. I started attending public school

when I was 14, and I
began to feel more included. But I still felt disconnected,

and awkward.

Then,
a miracle happened. My one close friend, Autumn, encouraged

me to join our high
school’s Special Olympics Unified Soccer team. After I

joined, my whole
life changed. I adored my coaches. My teammates were

absolute angels. For
the first time in forever, I felt like I could be myself. As I

grew emotionally, I
began to notice a difference in the attitudes of my

teammates, and that
motivated me to be more supportive of them. Ever since

this experience, I
have participated in the Unified Sports Program.

I
have participated in Unified Soccer for almost four years, and have

easily contributed
over 150 hours of service. My responsibilities consist of

guiding my disabled
teammates through drills and games and encouraging

them from the
sidelines. Although it is not necessarily my responsibility, I also

strive to make
lasting memories with them. I’ve gone the extra mile many

times for them. I
have never wanted recognition, I just wanted to give back to

the people who have
(unintentionally) helped me so much.

This
past season, I decided to try something new: coaching. I

encountered many
obstacles. It was difficult to create a good balance of

respect and fun. I
had to carefully design practices to keep my players engaged

and happy. But I was
able to learn to coach in an orderly fashion and create a

successful, happy
team.

I
feel the most satisfaction when my team thrives. Seeing them succeed

on the field and in
school is incredibly fulfilling. Many of our disabled

participants come
from disrupted homes. Yet, they are so strong- stronger than

I could ever be.
They don’t always realize their strength, but with my help,

they can recognize
their value. Seeing a change of character within someone

and knowing that you
were able to help is monumentally satisfying.

Becoming
a part of the Special Olympics Program was one of the best

decisions of my
life. Volunteering healed me. I discovered who I am, and

helped others become
comfortable with themselves, too. The world needs

more confident
people. We can prevent so much contention if we are all

accepting of
ourselves. When you’re confident in yourself, you’re more

inclined to treat
others with respect and empathy. Volunteering has taught me

this, and much more.
I have learned to have a positive and accepting attitude,

and developed a
habit of selflessness. Having these qualities is how I would

define “forward
looking”. Someone who is “forward looking” will
constantly

be searching for
happiness in the form of service, all while having a positive

attitude. These are
the kind of people who can lift the weary, calm the

troubled, and heal
the sick. They are the people who will dramatically change

the world.


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