Monte Vista High School senior Marina has been involved with Special Olympics Northern California since she attended Los Cerros Middle School. From volunteering at events, to spreading the word to end the word to Polar Plunge, Marina is a tireless promoter of acceptance and a lifelong friend to peers with intellectual disabilities.
She is also a shining example of non-disabled students in the Schools Partnership Program. We chatted up Marina to learn more about her involvement with SONC.
Our Unified Schools: What’s your favorite Special Olympics memory?
Marina: At a bowling tournament, I was helping out with some of the young men who were participating. One of the men was having trouble getting the ball to roll down the lane; the ball was usually going straight into the gutter after every throw. Every time it was his turn to bowl, I gave him just a few words of positive encouragement – reassuring him that he could do it if just believed that he could and that I believed in him. He began to bowl straighter and straighter, and finally, on his last turn he got a strike. He turned around to face with me a huge smile on his face and said, “I did it!!!” I couldn’t have been more proud. Afterward the little award ceremony, the same young man came up to me, enveloped me in a huge bear hug and told me that he couldn’t have done it without me. I started crying because I felt so moved and so proud of his new confidence in himself and that he thought I was the reason for his success even though he had it in him the entire time. If I can have that kind of effect on someone, I want to be able to do that my entire life. I would like to get more people involved so they can get that same proud feeling as I did when he turned around and said, “I did it!”
Our Unified Schools: Why are you involved with Special Olympics?
Marina: I think that everyone’s created equally. Just because someone has a mental or physical disability, they shouldn’t have to live life behind someone else. They should be able to live their life and participate in sports. By raising money to support the athletes, they are going to be able to live just like we are.
Our Unified Schools: Why is it important to donate to or fundraise for Special Olympics?
Marina: By giving financially, you can make sure the athletes can accomplish their dreams and fulfill everything in their life that they want to do. Just because they’re disabled, that doesn’t mean anything. They can do anything they put their mind to, but they need the opportunity to do so. By donating, you can change an athlete’s life forever.