Maggie DeWeese ’18, Zach Patel ’20, and Justin Traenkle ’19 are working together on a Community Enrichment Initiative (CEI) titled The Special Olympics Play Unified: Invitational Games. It is an event sponsored by the NC State Unified Club and Special Olympics North Carolina, to pair NC State students and Special Olympic athletes. With the goal of providing athletes with intellectual and developmental disorders the ability to continue playing Unified sports as they grow older, it also allows for NC State students to become ambassadors of inclusion. The positive interaction through a common interest, such as sports, helps increase understanding, appreciation, and inclusion among the general population.
Patel and Traenkle proposed the CEI because of their personal connections to Special Olympics and the special needs community. Patel has worked with students with intellectual disabilities since he was in middle school. Traenkle, who has an aunt who participated in Special Olympics, also developed a passion for the organization at a young age. It was after seeing Special Olympics North Carolina’s need for such a program that the two reached out to DeWeese, president of the NC State Unified Sports chapter. Together they have started an initiative that will positively affect the lives of many in the local community and across the state of North Carolina.
Both Patel and Traenkle find that being a Park Scholar has “allowed [us] to not only grow as a student, but also as a leader and as a person. The Park Scholarship program has offered us opportunities to hone critical thinking and leadership skills, and buy into the vision that we can make a bigger impact on the lives of others that [we] initially believed.” At the heart of the program is its dedication to service and allowing students to connect with others through such efforts.
The project will culminate in a Field Day on Friday, March 16.