Written by Kyle Norman with help from Terri Norman and Jazlyn Young
I have been a Special Olympics athlete since 2012. Besides being an athlete, I am also a Special Olympics US Youth Ambassador, a Montana Special Olympics State Youth Activation Committee member, and the founder of the Capital High School Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee. My friend Jazlyn has been a Special Olympics Unified partner since 2016. She was a coach and is now a Special Olympics US Youth Ambassador and a Montana Special Olympics State Youth Activation Committee member. Together we have worked to promote inclusion both at Capital High School and throughout the state of Montana.
When I was a high school freshman, I joined Business Professionals of America (BPA) at my school. I tried to take some of the tests in the competitive events, but they were a little too hard for me to complete successfully. I decided to start earning Torch Awards points in BPA by doing activities related to leadership, cooperation, service, friendship, knowledge, love, hope, faith and patriotism. I really wanted to continue to be a part of BPA my sophomore year because my mom was the chapter advisor and I knew that they did cool things and they also supported Special Olympics as their charitable organization. Jazlyn had participated as a Unified partner on my Special Olympics Unified basketball team that year and was also a BPA member. Jazlyn asked me to be in the Presentation Management Team event with her and a few of her other friends my sophomore year. I was very happy that Jazlyn asked me to join their team so that I could compete and be a part of BPA. My teammates all helped me learn my speaking role and we practiced together. We placed first in the regional competitions and qualified to compete at the state competitions, where we placed in the top ten. It felt awesome to be a part of their team and to be included!
After working together for most of the year through BPA, Jazlyn wanted to become more involved with Special Olympics. She convinced me to participate in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, and we have been plunging each year since then. I asked her if she wanted to be a track coach for our Capital High Bruins Special Olympics team that year. She gladly said “yes” and even recruited another friend to coach too, spreading inclusion even more at our school and in our community.
Through the Capital High School Youth Activation Committee, we started an annual respect rally at our school in conjunction with Spread the Word to End the Word day in March each year. At the annual rally, we ask students and staff to pledge to end the use of the R-Word, have people participate in inclusive activities, have Unified sports activities and daily announcements related to respect that entire week.
Over the years, we have continued to spread inclusion by participating on the State Youth Activation Committee and presenting to other schools and organizations about the importance of inclusion. I am enrolled in Unified PE at my school, and I have become more involved in other inclusive clubs within the school. Jazlyn is involved with an inclusive program at Montana State University, where she attends college. The program pairs students with and without disabilities in a mentorship program where students attend classes and other school activities together.
I am now a senior in high school, I recently passed my driving exam, and I am on track to graduate from high school in June! I hope to be able to go to college and take classes to learn more about weather. Jazlyn is working to earn college degrees in sociology and human development and would like to work with people with intellectual disabilities.I don’t feel that I have been excluded from things as I feel most people like me and accept my disability. Jazlyn and I continue to be good friends, even though she goes to college in another city. When she comes home for breaks, we get together and visit, which is cool. I like being with Jazlyn because she is a nice friend, and she treats me with respect. It is our hope that more people will include others and treat one another as equals.