Kansas Students Present To Department Of Education Secretary Cardona At Summit In Berlin

BERLIN, Germany, June 23, 2023– Jack Fuller and Raynee Fisher of Olathe, Kansas, presented to US Office of Special Education and U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, on the importance of inclusive programming post-secondary education at the Special Olympics 2023 World Games Global Youth Leadership Summit. Fuller and Fisher are graduating seniors from Olathe Northwest High School and were one of only a handful of pairs from the United States selected to participate in the program following a competitive application process with Special Olympics North America.

The 2023 Global Youth Leadership Summit took place in Berlin, Germany from 16 – 20 June. Over 100 young people representing Special Olympics worldwide spread inclusion by activating together and calling on policy makers to be proactive in breaking down barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their countries. This 5-day event was designed to tap into the energy, power, and global diversity created from being at the World Games to drive global legacy in creating inclusive communities through the power of youth engagement.

On the opportunity to present to Secretary Cardona, Fuller expressed, “It felt pretty good to talk to him and I felt like it was a good experience.”

“Talking to and meeting the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, was a once in a life time opportunity” said Fisher. “He came to listen to our project presentation and his full attention was on us and he truly wanted to hear about what we are doing.”

Fuller and Fisher’s presentation highlighted the transition needs of students with and without intellectual disorders (ID) that participate in inclusive school programming through the Unified Champion School program in Kansas and a need to create opportunities post-graduation. The strategy included surveying graduating seniors to determine post high school plans and interest in continued participation in Special Olympics programming. Using the survey results, the plan is to connect students with and without ID at all Kansas universities and in communities to inform them of other opportunities.

“Having Secretary Cardona attend the student’s presentations was an incredible opportunity to showcase the impactful work our students are doing to positively impact the schools in their community,” stated Special Olympics Kansas Director of Inclusion, Taylor Obersteadt, attending the Summit with the pair. “We are so thankful to have this opportunity and Jack and Raynee did such a great job representing their state and country!”

The Unified Champion School program is an inclusive strategy consisting of three core components: Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement. There are now more than 100 schools across Kansas participating in this program that is in part funded through a grant from Special Olympics North America and the Department of Education.

More information on Special Olympics Kansas Unified Champion Schools.