Special Olympics Florida

Yatziri Rodriguez

Unified Partner, Polk County

I have been a Unified partner on the Ridge Community High School Unified volleyball team for four years now. Originally, I came out to volunteer with equipment, but when the team needed Unified partners both of the coaches convinced me to play for the team, and I haven’t looked back since.

Our Special Olympics team is unlike any other team I have been on before. Since being part of Special Olympics I have learned so much from my teammates as well as our coaches. They teach us that one bad game or practice shouldn’t bring us down, but to pick our heads up. Not only does the comradery of my team keep me motivated, but also the mission of playing Unified and showing the abilities of Special Olympics athletes and not their disabilities.

When people say special needs, they think, oh poor things. Now I see the athletes and it is eye opening. The athletes have plans and goals they want to fill. They want to get a job after high school, go to college or a transition program, to get their driver’s license. They are more than capable, and the last thing you should do is underestimate them.