BEAVERTON, OR –On a beautiful October day change was in the air both outside and inside the Tiger Woods Center at NIKE World Headquarters. More than 400 high school and middle school students representing 10 Oregon schools gathered for the 2011 Youth Leadership Summit to share ideas and enthusiasm about Project UNIFY Oregon.
Guest speakers, inspirational videos, raffle prizes, and even a text-messaging opportunity to win an I-Pod made it an exciting and inspirational gathering of student leaders.
"We have 10 percent of our student body here today," said Laurie Kash, special education director of Rainier High School. Rainier senior Angela Posch and junior Shaylyn Kinman, described the Project UNIFY Oregon activities at their school, including a unified P.E. class, an "R Word" assembly held last year, and after-school sports such as bocce ball. Their classmate Stanley Stimson was enjoying the activities: "I’m doing good," he said.
Students and teachers from six schools comprised a school panel that shared their different Project UNIFY Oregon activities, including Forest Grove High School’s Youth Rally, how McMinnville High School raised $1,700 from the play "It’s Our School, Too!" and Sherwood High School’s Breaking Down the Walls campaign and Lunch Bunch, described by one student as "a mix-it-up kind of thing."
"Last year, I participated in Polar Plunge," said a panel member from Stayton High School. "The water was freezing, but I knew that once I stepped into the water I was supporting something that I was passionate about. I have personally witnessed in our school hallways other students stopping from using the R Word."
Chris Crawford, National Sales Director for Team at Nike, shared his insights on working through challenges and how the Nike culture promotes acceptance and inclusion.
Bill and Peggy Self of Portland told of their son Brendon’s athletic achievements through his participation at Grant High School and Special Olympics. Brendon proudly wore his varsity letter jacket from Grant. Brendon, who also is an Eagle Scout, together with his family has raised funds to support a special-needs school in Kenya called the Ndohivyo Project.
Melissa Bowerman, who is the daughter-in-law of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, volunteers with her husband, Jon, as the track-and-field coach for the Condon-Wheeler track team. Two years ago, when their son wanted to run track for Condon-Wheeler, the Bowermans discovered that there was no equipment, no uniforms, no transportation…and no track. A Nike connection helped their team get all of the uniforms they needed, and now, "Over half of our students go out for track, and they’re the cool kids."
Melissa shared her own story about achieving national and world-champion archery medals, and how she worked through obstacles to achieve her dream.
"A lot of people go to a lot of trouble to inspire you, but nobody tells you what do next. I’m going to give you the secret formula on how to get what you want." She then encouraged the students to write down their plans: "It’s a contract with yourself, and it’s real important."
Emely Garcia and Bianca Maldonado of Southridge High School were attending the conference for the first year. They were part of a group of 25 students seeking ideas to start Project UNIFY Oregon activities. "At our school people are stuck into dances, and we want to do something better," said Emely, explaining that special-needs students are not included in activities or lunchtime groups at Southridge. The girls plan to take ideas from the conference, especially Polar Plunge, to their leadership class.
"It was fantastic," said Matt Parish, special education teacher from Sutherlin High School, who was part of a group of 24 students and teachers. "We have a lot of new students in our Partners Club, and this was a very well-organized day."
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