Siblings Ben and Sarah Barnhart, both sophomores at Cherry Creek High School, have been selected to represent the United States at the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit, to be held June 25 to July 4 in Athens, Greece. The summit will be held during the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to change attitudes and break down barriers that exclude them from the mainstream of the community.
The Barnharts and eight other students from the U.S. will join youth from 30 countries around the globe, including Austria, Bolivia, China, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The students range in age from 12 to 17 and are committed to making a difference and building acceptance in their schools and communities. Half the students are Special Olympic athletes who are not competing in the summer games. They have been paired with a peer partner who does not have an intellectual disability.
Ben Barnhart, 16, has been a Special Olympic athlete for eight years and has earned gold medals in swimming and bowling and a silver medal in basketball at the Colorado Special Olympics. His sister, Sarah, 15, will be his peer partner at the summit.
“Being selected to represent the United States is such an honor because I'll have a chance to further promote respect for those with intellectual disabilities,” said Sarah Barnhart.
Both Barnharts are very involved in Special Olympics Colorado and have been members of Colorado’s Youth Activation Committee since its inception in 2009. They have organized several events to support Project Unify, an initiative to educate, activate and motivate their peers to be inclusive and respectful to those with intellectual disabilities.
“Sarah and I did several R-Word campaigns this year, including six in the Cherry Creek School District, one in Boulder and one in Golden,” said Ben Barnhart, referring to a campaign where students pledge not to use offensive language or actions and to be inclusive toward people with disabilities.
The Barnharts exemplify the students who will participate in the Youth Activation Summit.
“We look to young people to be our leaders of change in communities around the world,” shared Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman and CEO. “Our youth leaders will bring to Greece their unique experiences and insights about how Special Olympics can build communities and in return, they will bring home their work to influence real change with their peers.”
The 2011 Special Olympics’ Global Youth Activation Summit is one of several Special Olympics global initiatives helping to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change. For more information on the 2011 Special Olympics Global Youth Summit, visit http://www.specialolympics.org/schools_and_youth.aspx