The #InclusionRevolution is here.
Inclusive Youth Leadership
An Inclusive Youth Leader believes that people of all abilities can participate in leadership opportunities. This leader sees each peer first as a person, someone who can be part of the team if the team supports his or her leadership growth. Inclusive Youth Leaders pave the path for their fellow students, recognizing that their peers with intellectual disabilities have the potential to be phenomenal leaders, just like their peers without intellectual disabilities. Students should be encouraged and supported to be agents of change, have opportunities to be leaders, and participate in collaborative school activities. To achieve this, school leaders and educators must foster a socially inclusive school climate that emphasizes acceptance, respect and human dignity for all students. A socially inclusive school is a place where no student is excluded because of the degree or type of disability or the services required to meet his/her needs. Inclusive Youth Leaders pave the path for their fellow students, recognizing that their peers with intellectual disabilities have the potential to be phenomenal leaders, just like their peers without intellectual disabilities.
Unified Clubs are inclusive school-based committees which are youth-led and athlete-driven. Unified Clubs focus on acceptance and inclusion through sports, social interaction, recreational opportunities, and supporting the incredible Unified Programs on campus! The goals are simple: build student character, increase acceptance, develop leadership skills, and enhance your school community!
State Youth Activation Committee
The State Youth Activation Committee (YAC) is about activating youth to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Most importantly the goal is to be advocates for inclusion and HAVE FUN doing it! State YAC is a group of high school students with and without intellectual disabilities who support Unified programs including – Unified Sports, Spread the Word To End The Word, Minute That Matters, Healthy Athletes, and State & Area Sports Competitions. State YAC members develop strategies, lead initiatives, and organize events that promote the respect, inclusion, and acceptance of all people, regardless of abilities. The State Youth Activation Committee is a committee of YAC members representing schools from across the state. We are currently seeking applications from Special Olympics Athletes, Unified Partners, and high school students (freshman, sophomore, and juniors) for the entire state!
AIA Student Leadership Advisory Committee
In 2018, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) established the AIA Student Leadership Advisory Committee (SLAC). Student leaders throughout the state of Arizona come together to serve on the SLAC, which focuses on establishing an inclusive and encouraging atmosphere for all; empowering students to develop as leaders and advocates for their communities; and supporting the community our students participate in, one activity at a time.
For more information: AIA SLAC Fact Sheet
Meet some of our Inclusive Youth Leaders!
Hello, my name is Allie Robinson, 15 years old and I am an incoming sophomore at Lake Havasu High School. My first experience working with special needs kids was in 2nd grade when I was asked to help with arts and crafts. Ever since, I have had a passion for working with special needs. I have moved several times, but I always find a way to help such as making friends or going to the park with them. When I moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, my mom and I volunteered at the Special Olympics event we hold I town. We had unfortunately lost connection with the directors after that. With my freshman year coming to an end, our class project in Key Club (a community service club at the high school), I thought I should try to reach out to whomever hosted the Special Olympics Track & Field event in town. I met with Lisa Bell who opened my eyes to how many opportunities there are to help. Key Club then came to the event and cheered on the competitors. Our hearts melted when we saw the joy and excitement on their faces as they competed. We plan to attend each year after we realized how amazing it was. Lisa introduced me to YAC and I later spoke with Brittany Doud who went into further detail about YAC. These ladies have made me thrilled to join YAC and I’m excited for what’s to come.
My name is Bethany Considine, I am sixteen years old and a junior at Raymond S. Kellis High School. I have always seen my mom as a role model in my life and her involvement with Special Olympics encouraged me to be involved as well. I became directly involved in high school by joining Unified Sports, Project UNIFY, and Best Buddies. In previous years, I have volunteered multiple times at Special Olympics tournaments that range for area tournaments to state games. Special Olympics has given me many opportunities to meet and develop new friendships across Arizona. I believe everyone should be accepted equally for who they are, and I want to continue seeing that happen in the world as I participate on the State Youth Activation Committee.
My name is Brianne Kunkel, and I was born and raised in Arizona. I go to Cactus Shadows High School and I will be a junior for the 2015-2016 school year. I developed an interest in Special Olympics through the Project UNIFY Adaptive P.E. class, which I peer tutored in my sophomore year. I have two cousins with special needs, so inclusions really hits home with me. I remember listening to one of my cousins complaining about the judgmental looks she got from others and I just did not understand why. To me, she was no different that everyone else. So inclusion is very important to me, and my goal as a YAC member is to make as make people as possible feel included and important. A fun fact about me is that no only do I have two cousins with disabilities, but I could have had disabilities when I was born from lack of oxygen and my umbilical cord being tied in a knot. I am so thankful for this opportunity to be on the Youth Activation Committee and I cannot wait to start making some positive changes!
My name is Emma Mangiapane and I am a senior at Pinnacle High School. I first started helping special needs kids in 7th grade at my middle school. It was such a great experience that I decided to become their classroom aide the following year. That was the point when I knew that I needed to be more involved. As a result, I looked to Special Olympics to see if they had a place for my passion and desire to make a positive difference. Since initially reaching out, I have been able to volunteer for Special Olympics, and am in the process of getting Unified Sports started in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. It is an honor to be part of the YAC, and Special Olympics continues to help me create change in the world every day.
Hi, my name is Jacob Lunski and I am 15 years old. I live in Peoria, AZ and have been involved with Special Olympics Arizona for 5 years. In those 5 years, I have been a volunteer & have acted as a Unified Partner for the past three years. I have played on a unified volleyball team with the City of Peoria and played numerous sports with the Westside Warriors this past season. Last year at Liberty High School, I was an officer for the Unified Club and was a member of the Unified Sports class. Unified Sports is my passion and will continue to be one of the greatest things that I will do for the rest of my life.
My name is Josh Kaplan, and I’m a 17 year-old incoming senior at Rancho Solano Preparatory School in Scottsdale, Arizona. I first became involved with Special Olympics when I joined my soccer club’s Unified team at 12 years old. The program ended a year later, but my love for Unified sports didn’t! In February of 2015, I created GOALS (Giving Opportunities to All who Love Soccer), a Unified soccer program for kids with and without special needs. Twice a month we host non-competitive, small-sided soccer scrimmages. Because of GOALS, I was able to attend the Special Olympics Social Impact Summit in Los Angeles last summer. I’m so excited to share my love for Unified sports with even more kids through the Youth Activation Committee!
Hi my name is Kyla Belville and I am from Chandler, Arizona. I am in 11th grade and I am a proud Wolf at Chandler High School. I first got involved with Special Olympics through Cheer at Chandler. My coach is involved with it and she thought I would be a great candidate for it. So I joined cheer with the Special Olympics and I immediately fell in love. I think it is so important to be included it doesn’t matter the type of person you are, or your interests, you can always find something or someone that is interested in the same things as you are. One unique fact about me is at Chandler High School I am currently the Chandler Buddies President for the 2015-16 school year. I am so excited about this experience and that I will get to share it with the best people out there!
My name is Reece Thulstrup and I’m a senior at Liberty High School. I’m a member of a Unified Club and have participated in R-Word campaigns at my school, which are awesome! This club has taught me to treat everyone the same and to be the positive voice the others need to hear! I am now honored to be a part of the Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee and be able to empower my school and community to live unified! My first event with Special Olympics Arizona was Fall Games and I loved every minute of that experience! I have been able to make great friendships at my school and it has changed my life. I can’t wait to see what my future holds!
My name is Teresa Munguia. I am sixteen years old and a Junior at Hamilton High School. My brother, who has autism, joined the Special Olympics program just a few years ago. This led me to the opprotunity to help others by being a Unified Partner for basketball and cheerleading. On a personal note, I myself have a very mild case of cerebal palsy on my left side but no one seems to notice. I support Project Unify because I want everyone to have the same acceptance that I feel. Also, Project Unify bridges the gap which allows us to make lifelong friendships with anyone despite their appearance or abilities.
Hello! My name is Trey Leveque and I have lived in Arizona for the majority of my life. I currently attend Williams Field High School in Gilbert, and will be a senior this upcoming 2016-2017 school year. My passion towards helping others began at a very young age and my involvement with Special Olympics Arizona has allowed me to be a catalyst for change in my community. In the upcoming year, I will represent Williams Field High School as the Student Body President as well as Best Buddies President for the 2016-2017 school year. My involvement in Special Olympics began in 2012 when volunteering for the Healthy Athletes Program. I remember being asked if I could escort some athletes through the Healthy Athletes Program disciplines that were provided at the event and not really being sure what to do since I had no experience with people with intellectual disabilities. After escorting them through the event, I was impacted tremendously by how much that they had taught me.
Through volunteering for Special Olympics Arizona over the past five years, my family and I have focused on making a difference in the Healthy Athletes Program which provides health screenings for the athletes in several disciplines. Every time I volunteer for Special Olympics Arizona, I see the impact that this organization has on its athletes. I have been able to witness first-hand the impact that the Healthy Athletes Program can have on the athletes. Whether the athletes are getting their eyes checked for the first time in the Opening Eyes Program or getting fitted properly for a pair of shoes through the Fit Feet Program, it has impacted my life greatly.
Since then, I have volunteered and participated in various Summer Games, Fall Games and Winter Games along with Tri-2-Unify, Fuel of Dreams, Over the Edge, and many more events. When volunteering at these events I have supported the athletes, set up and broke down events, and walked athletes though the disciplines. By attending all of these special events over the past few years, I have been changed forever by the outstanding athletes I have been honored to meet.
Over the past several years, I have also had the opportunity to see the impact that Project UNIFY has had on the athletes’ lives. As a result, I am extremely honored to be a member of the Special Olympics Arizona Youth Activation Committee (YAC) this upcoming year and have the opportunity to further my involvement in this wonderful movement and cause!