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Vermont Student Selected for Special Olympics Global Summit

Sam Donnelly, 20, of Burlington is one of just fifty youth leaders from around the globe selected to take part in the Special Olympics Social Impact Summit in Graz, Austria in March of 2017. The six-day summit is a gathering of Generation Unified leaders who have applied with specific project proposals to be part of the summit and engage with global change mentors who will help them turn ideas into impact.

The Generation Unified summit, coined GenUin, will take place during the Special Olympics World Winter Games competition. These Games will convene 3,000 athletes from 110 countries for competition in nine Olympic-type winter sports. Two Special Olympics Vermont athletes and one coach have qualified to attend.

The goal of the summit is to challenge intolerance, injustice, and inactivity. People with intellectual disabilities are not seen as owners of change. Rather, they are among the most discriminated and powerless populations in the world. Generation Unified will fight this reality.

“Being invited to the Special Olympics Social Impact Summit is exciting and an honor,” says Donnelly.  “Generation Unified is beyond important to me because it represents the ideas of acceptance and inclusion. By being part of the Social Impact Summit, I hope to share my project and passion for Special Olympics with youth leaders and mentors from around the world.”

GenUin applicants were asked to submit a project proposal to generate acts of inclusion and meaningfully engage people with and without intellectual disabilities in their communities. In his project proposal, Donnelly hopes to create a social responsibility course for high school students. “I believe the best way to take on the blindness and intolerance towards those with an intellectual disability is through the power of education,” Donnelly states. His goal is to work with five Vermont schools to build the curriculum for a Unified class where students with and without intellectual disabilities explore the power of acceptance.

Donnelly is not new to the Special Olympics movement. His involvement began as a junior at Burlington High School when he began playing Unified sports. The following year, he became a founding member of the Special Olympics Vermont Youth Activation Committee. After graduation, Donnelly took a gap year where he interned in both the Special Olympics New York City and Vermont offices. Now a first year student at the University of Vermont, Donnelly is the president of the Special Olympics Club on campus.

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