On Saturday, April 21st over 100 youth with an without intellectual disabilities from 10 different schools attended a student-led Youth Rally at Hillsboro High School to raise awareness about inclusion and to promote the R-Word Campaign.
The rally was organized and produced by 16 year-old Hillsboro High School student Jori Halpern as part of her senior project, along with the help of Special Olympics Oregon staff. Last year Halpern attended the Youth Rally at Grant High School that Special Olympics Oregon hosted and was so inspired by the event that she decided to organize one at her own school. By hosting the rally, Halpern’s goal was to break down barriers between students with and without disabilities in order to create a more accepting society.
During the first half of the rally students had the opportunity to participate in various activity booths that promoted inclusion, acceptance, respect and sports. Some the activities included creating your own R-Word shirt, signing the R-Word pledge, making friendship bracelets, and a basketball shoot-out that was hosted by Hillsboro Unified basketball youth participants.
The second portion of the event brought everyone together for an assembly styled rally. Since the weather was almost 75 degrees, they decided to have it at their outdoor commons area instead of in the gym. Guest speakers took the stage to share their stories and entertain the crowd. Twin brothers Joseph and Jonathan Jackson told their story about one of them being born with down syndrome and the other without and their involvement in participating in Special Olympics basketball together. Next, Forest Grove High School students Chris Sullivan and Skylar Sharp shared their experience about traveling to the 2012 Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece and representing Project UNIFY at the Global Youth Activation Summit. A Hillsboro Unified partner and athlete then spoke about their involvement in Unified sports and the impact that it’s had in their lives. The rally ended with an exciting performance by local musical artist Cam Lasley, who performed four songs and got the crowd up on their feet and dancing!