A Global Messenger for the Special Olympics of Virginia Shares Her Story

One of our clients recently presented a speech at John Rolfe Middle School as a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics of Virginia.  In her speech, she speaks to her the challenges that she’s faced and her passion to overcome them.  We couldn’t think of a better way to represent her than through her own words!

"Hi!! my name is Emily Bower.  I want to thank you for having me speak here for team excel at John Rolfe middle school. Today, I want to convey my message of how I got involved with Special Olympics Virginia, why I wanted to become a global messenger, and what the campaign to end the r-word means to me. 

While I was an intern at TechAccess, 5 years ago I met my current work coach, Pam Russell, through the choice group. It was through her that I got the opportunity to interview for a position as an office assitant at Special Olympics Virginia or, what we commonly call SOVA. Guess who got the job?!  At the time, I didn't know much about Special Olympics except that they play sports. Did you know that Special Olympics is a worldwide organization of 4 and 1/2 million athletes, and over 21 thousand of those athletes participate in Virginia? Sometimes people ask me “when is the Special Olympics held?” well, I usually answer by telling them that special Olympics is year round. The fact is, events within the state, are held throughout the year. There are 2,500 events held in Virginia alone!! to me, this is pretty amazing!  
While I was working at SOVA during my fourth year, I was  given the opportunity to interview for a position as a global messenger. again, guess who got the job?  I was excited about this! Two big reasons why I wanted to become a global messenger were 1. to help spread the word about all the greats things that Special Olympics does and 2. I wanted to tell my own personal story. Just to fill you in on a little of that story; in school, I was constantly bullied. I may not have been called the derogatory word “retard”, but I do know what it’s like to be called names that are mean, and hurtful. I think the biggest challenge for me, other than being bullied, was not knowing how to speak up about how these names affected me. The same applied for hearing others being called the r-word. 

Many people don’t realize the effect that their words have on others. Words like that are extremely hurtful, and can really damage a person’s self-esteem. And, in addition, people who use the r-word could be seen as uncaring, lacking feeling, and a bully!! Who wants to be seen that way?? that’s why I'm speaking with you, today. 

Remember, knowledge is power! 

I ended up leaving the public school system in the middle of the 6th grade. My parents and many doctors could see something was not right. Not long after that, I learned that I had an anxiety disorder. That was a really tough year for me! By the middle of that year, I was transferred to Northstar Academy. Northstar is a small private school for people who have learning disabilities. I really liked Northstar because it was a smaller setting and the teachers helped the students, individually. There was also a common respect among the students for each other. 

After I graduated in 2005, I went through a 13th year at Douglas Southall Freeman High School. Being back in the public school system was a lot easier than when I was in the 6th grade! I graduated from Freeman and later, attended J. Sargent Reynolds for a year.  I took classes that I was interested in like History, English, and Psychology. The college experience wasn't something I wanted to continue long term, and decided I wanted to pursue a job, instead. When I started working at SOVA as an office assistant, I instantly made so many new friends! As I participated in various events, I found my voice! and through my voice I want to help people understand why the r-word campaign is so important. I personally know the damage that labels can do in decreasing a person's self-worth. We must all realize that banning the R word permanently will help, not just athletes on the playing field, but all of us! We all become more compassionate for one another!! 

I am thankful to SOVA, as it has given me the opportunity to highlight my abilities and overcome challenges. These challenges have allowed me to grow and to meet so many wonderful people. Especially, people like you!!!! And by the way, you can also be involved with SOVA! There are so many opportunities for this and you won’t regret it!!! 

Despite any challenges a person may have, we all have our inner beacon of light 
that is meant to be shared with others.  Share your light by making a pledge to ban the r-word. You can do this by going to www.r-word.org and make your pledge. Let's make the new r-word be respect! Thank you once more for inviting me to speak. I hope by hearing me today you may want to become involved in Special Olympics as I am. My name is Emily Bower and I am a fan of special 
Olympics and the r-word campaign, forever!! "


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