Working with the Special Needs community
My passion in working with kids and young adults with “special abilities” began at a very young age. From having an autistic older cousin be such an important figure in my life, my love of those with Special Needs blossomed.
Since I was little, I had always felt like the kids in the Special Ed classrooms were never given the chance to assimilate into the typical student routine during lunch or recess, as most days, they were confined to the classroom. And with this feeling grew my idea for the Friendship Club at my intermediate school. It started with a handful of typical students coming into the Special Ed classroom at lunch on Fridays and has grown to the club it is today; 6 years later it is one of two clubs at the middle school and has 30 members as well as 20 participants.
I continued this club at the high school, and this is my third year as President. Outside of my school involvement, I began volunteering through the Friendship Foundation. The Friendship Foundation has evolved into not only the place that truly fostered my love of the Special Needs community, but truly became my home during the hardships of high school. The hundreds of hours I have volunteered at the foundation is only a small reflection of my experience compared to the countless stories of the kids I have met along the way.
Skechers Pier to Pier Walk
The Friendship Foundation partnered with Skechers, 10 years ago, to create a walk that would create a name for the Special Needs Community in the South Bay. This walk began with the intent to recognize and celebrate those people in the community with Special Needs. I have been in attendance every year since the very beginning in 2008 and watched the walk grow to it’s record breaking numbers of 13,000 walkers this year. I have also worked on the Skechers Teen Advisory Board as an active member for three years, and as of this year, the president as well. The Teen Advisory Board helps drive student outreach for the walk in the community, as well as our schools. This year the board consisted of 50 members who worked effortlessly to get walkers from 6 neighboring school districts in the South Bay.
My work with the Friendship Foundation began as an outlet for joy and simple times in my life, and has truly become, over the course of my adolescence, my passion in life. I hope to always have the opportunity to work with people like Jacob, who remind me what truly matters in life. A man who society deems as “disabled” has taught me more about myself and my place in society, and shown me through his actions what love truly means. He is the reason I give up Friday nights to volunteer for the foundation, and he is the reason I am looking to continue my involvement with this community for the rest of my life.