As soon as I was welcomed into this great organization, I was introduced to an abundance of opportunities. My story began in Miami where I had the privilege to work and spend my days with students in the Miami Learning Experience, a school that offers education programs for people with developmental disabilities. Students here are able to participate in Special Olympics Florida sports and programs as part of their physical education.
In 2016, I was accepted into the University of Florida (UF) where I joined Special Olympics Florida as a social media intern within my first week in Gainesville. It was there that I experienced the power of Special Olympics and saw the Unified intramural football and basketball leagues grow in a college town. The University of Florida’s RecSports works together with Special Olympics Florida to create Unified intramural teams which consist of partners (who are UF students without intellectual disabilities) and Special Olympics Florida athletes (with intellectual disabilities). This creates an inclusive environment where people with and without intellectual disabilities come together to play and have a good time.
I knew from the beginning that I had to be an advocate and spread the word of this great organization that changed my life. As summer neared, I desired to continue expanding my horizons back home in Miami. That is when I started a summer internship in the Miami-Dade office as a development intern.
It is important to note that Special Olympics Florida is more than just sports. It provides many different opportunities which include intramurals, volunteering, fundraising, and internships among others. Special Olympics Florida also has a Healthy Athletes program to provide free health screenings and free products such as prescription glasses and orthotics for all the athletes.
Volunteering with Special Olympics Florida has given me a whole new perspective. The organization relies on volunteers for its year-round events. One of the greatest gifts someone can give is their time; whether it be a one-day event or a long-time commitment. Volunteering with Special Olympics Florida will give you a chance to interact with the wonderful athletes and change their lives. Seeing athletes’ reactions to winning medals has thus far been the most cherished moment during my involvement with Special Olympics Florida.
Special Olympics Florida has year-round fundraisers in every county which help aide athletes in sports training, competitions, providing uniforms, and bettering the life of each athlete. Following Special Olympics Florida and your local county’s program on social media or checking their website will give you the inside scoop on the events occurring around you. Attending fundraisers can help empower athletes to achieve greatness.
As an intern for two counties, I have had the incredible learning experience to witness the different aspects and details that make such a great organization possible. Being part of something bigger than myself has allowed me to broaden my advocacy and defend the rights of others. The most important factor of working with Special Olympics Florida is to listen to what the athletes need and facilitate resources to help them improve and succeed in every aspect of their life. The essence of my personal mission is to support the athletes of Special Olympics Florida and help enable them to succeed in sports and in life.
Written by: Vanessa Munoz, Special Olympics Florida – Miami-Dade County intern