A Final Day of Learning!

This story was written by Rachel Lamm, Special Olympics North Carolina Youth Leader with support from her friend Jack Yarborough, Special Olympics North Carolina athlete on the final day of the Special Olympics Global Unified Youth Exchange.

Jack & Rachel enjoying the SOEA Unified Schools Leadership Forum

We have made it to Day 6! Traveling around China has been an amazing experience, today in Shanghai we attended the 2017 Special Olympics East Asia Unified Schools Leadership Forum. At this forum we heard from many groups both from China and North Carolina. The Special Olympics International youth development team spoke on best practices seen around the world. They also discussed future plans for Unified Champion Schools and how to transition students in Unified Champion Schools from each stage of life to sustain engagement of youth as they grow into adults. Exchange representatives from both China and North Carolina presented on best practices in their respective schools. Gavin Rodriguez, Daniel Bartholomy, and Ann Lake presented on best practices of sustainability and youth leadership at Rocky River High School. They also discussed how they are able to work together as students and teachers with intergenerational leadership. Students from Shanghai Foreign Language Schools, Nina and Alex, shared their best practice of Special Olympics club that not only includes sports, but creates workshops that focus on different skills to further foster relationships and bring together unified partners and athletes. Alyssa Taflinger, Kelli Hutson, and Anna Coleman presented on their best practice of community engagement at the University level. These presentations gave not only individuals in the exchange ideas but also individuals attending the forum such as teachers and principals an idea of how Unified Champion Schools incorporate the aspects of whole school engagement and youth advocacy. We were split into small breakout groups and our group discussion Special Olympics college programs and learned about colleges in China and how they are unified sport oriented. The group then broke into small groups for a discussion on the un convention for disability rights and discussed how special olympics can further remove barriers in society for individuals with disabilities. Overall today we were able to pull together and reflect on everything we have learned this week.

Jack (right) with his adult mentor, Jason (left)

And update on the food: If you put something in front of Jack- he will eat it! He loves the food here and is a master at using chopsticks. He has impressed most of our new friends here in China with how adventurous he is with food. Jack and I have had so much fun and have taken so much away from this experience but we are excited to get home so we can share all we have learned!

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