The Special Olympics movement has long recognized young people’s unique ability to be agents of change through the Project UNIFY program. Schools across the United States feature exceptional youth working to foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities in their communities.
Two such young people from North Carolina are receiving national recognition for their selection to the National Youth Activation Committee (YAC). Bella Smith and Monayzia Taylor will spend the next year working with 20 peers from across the nation to reach other youth and communicate the initiatives of Project UNIFY on a local, national and global basis.
Smith and Taylor have been selected from a pool of applicants for their dedication to Project UNIFY in their home state. Both girls were involved with their statewide YAC for at least one year and in that time, they did a great deal of public speaking as they took on local and state-level leadership roles.
“But perhaps the biggest piece to the puzzle for Monayzia and Bella was that they both started Project UNIFY in their high schools, showing great initiative and passion,” said A’Lisa Tello, Vice President of Program Innovations for Special Olympics North Carolina.
Tello is looking forward to watching Smith and Taylor grow throughout the next year as a result of their involvement with the National YAC.
“There are so many opportunities ahead for Bella and Monayzia, both for them to improve Project UNIFY programming in North Carolina by exchanging ideas with their peers as well as grow on a personal level,” continued Tello.
Smith and Taylor are both looking forward to improving their leadership skills, growing awareness of Special Olympics and Project UNIFY and spending time getting to know like-minded students from diverse backgrounds.
“I’m very excited about being a part of the National YAC! This is such a great opportunity for me to promote unity and inclusion and I’m really grateful to be doing it with a friend like Monayzia!” explained Smith.
There is a lot ahead in the next year for the two North Carolinians: new friendships, new ideas and lots of untapped potential. As the Special Olympics movement turns its eye to youth leadership and all it can accomplish, it is certain that North Carolina is in good hands.