The 2015 Athlete Leadership Connection

IMG_0265On October 19, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a NYC nonprofit that promotes women in sports, hosted its first Athlete Leadership Connection. Held in the Morgan Stanley Headquarters in Times Square, the event brought together collegiate and professional female athletes, including Olympians and Paralympians.

IMG_0267.jpgThe main purpose of the day was to help collegiate and professional athletes with their futures. Women who were already professionals, whether in athletics or business, participated and led panels throughout the day that were designed to aid athletes who wanted to change from being an athlete into something else. Some of the panels were “Identifying Your Brand,” “Careers in Sports Journalism and Broadcasting,” “Financial Literacy,” and “Career Opportunities in Athletic Leadership.” There were even mock interviews set up with various companies.

I volunteered during the second half of the day, so I wasn’t able to see many of the panels. However, I was able to see the last one of the day and the one I think was coolest. “Project Connection” was very similar to Shark Tank, the show where entrepreneurs present their products to wealthy and influential people who could fund them.

The participating athletes were divided into three teams, and each team was given a concept. The teams had a very small amount of time to put together an idea worthy of being presented to an Angel, someone who could fund their idea. Then, they presented their work, and it was very fun to watch and listen.

The first was a Title IX App that was geared toward education about Title IX, a law that prohibits sexual discrimination in any sports or federally funded activity. They intended to start promoting it with high school students, so they would be able to know their rights before college. After their presentation, the Angels were able to ask questions in order to get more information. One of them asked, “What will we get back in return?” and an athlete answered, “Awareness.”

The second was a Fans in the Stands App that would be designed to get more fans for women’s sports. They would start the app with college students and then expand it to high school and professional sports. There would be a number of rewards and promotions that would benefit those who had the app and went to female athletes’  competitions and games.

The third was an idea called Candid Conversations. Female professional athletes would speak to current female student athletes on college campuses about transitioning from a sports-focused life to a career-focused life. It would be a speaker series similar to TED Talks that would help collegiate athletes develop professional skills. To start, there would be nine speeches at nine different universities with 1800 students reached.

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The winners!

After the athletes presented their ideas, the Angels went out of the room to discuss each one, and when they returned, they announced that they would give Candid Conversations $31,000 for the first year with an extra $20,000 to train the athlete speakers in public speaking. The second year, they would give $50,000 if the first year’s results were good. It was very exciting that the Angels agreed to fund one of the ideas! I look forward to hearing about how Candid Conversations is doing in 2016 and if it is funded again in 2017!

Here is a video of the day from the Women’s Sports Foundation:

 

For more information about the Athlete Leadership Connection and any of the other work the Women’s Sports Foundation does, here is its website:  http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org

Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2016!

2015 was an awesome year for me. I volunteered at the Special Olympics World Games, started interning at Special Olympics New York, created this blog, met two of my heroes, made a lot of amazing new friends, and was accepted to volunteer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro! 2015 made me really excited for 2016!

In honor of 2016, here is a list of 16 things I am excited about for 2016.

  1. VOLUNTEERING AT THE RIO OLYMPICS!!!!!!! 112414-OLYMPIC-2016-MASCOT-AS-PI.vadapt.620.high.55
  2. Watching the Olympics in person!
  3. Going to the Olympic Village in Rio.
  4. Exploring Rio de Janeiro.
  5. Trading Olympic pins with people from all over the world.
  6. Continuing to intern at Special Olympics New York.
  7. Growing my blog and updating it more frequently.
  8. Meeting more people who love the Olympic Movement just as much as I do!
  9. Graduating from Pace University in December 2016.
  10. Getting my first full-time job!IMG_4864
  11. Volunteering around the city (and writing blog posts about it!).
  12. Writing my senior thesis on the Olympic Movement.
  13. Turning 21.
  14. More Special Olympics New York competitions!
  15. Learning Portuguese.
  16. Summer ❤
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Happy New Year in Portuguese

 Happy 2016 to all of my followers! Here’s to another gold medal year!

Pins (And Their Place in the Olympic Movement)

In my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, they have frames filled with pins right above the computer. For a long time when I was growing up, I had no idea what they were for. However, it all clicked one day, and I realized that these were the pins my family had collected when we went to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

I was one at the time, so I don’t remember it, but my sister says it was really awesome. She told me that her pins were coveted because my mom had gotten Kodak pins that no one else had. Although I missed out on the pin-collecting fun at the Atlanta Games, I was able to experience my own pin-collecting fun this summer at the Special Olympics World Games.

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He was right outside of the LA Memorial Coliseum after the Opening Ceremony and would only trade for pins. People kept trying to buy them, but he kept refusing.

Amy, my supervisor at Special Olympics New York, gave me Special Olympics New York pins before I left. I’m so grateful that she did because I was able to trade those for really cool pins. Mine were highly desired because not many people there were from New York. From my experience, trading pins was a way to open up conversation and connect with people from anywhere. The pins bridged the gap between cultures and languages. Most of the delegations had pins from their countries with them, and it was a good way to approach a team and get to know them. Special Olympics athletes are so kind that usually they tried to give me their pins instead of trading. I always had to make sure that they also got pins from me.

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One of the coolest pin tradings happened on my last night as a volunteer. I was already done with my shift, and I was saying goodbye to everything at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza with my friend I had made during the Games. A man and a woman approached me and asked if I wanted to trade with them. They ended up trading me pins from the Atlanta 1996 Olympics! I traded some of my pins for an Atlanta Olympic pin, Paralympic pin, and a Diving pin. As I was talking with them, they told me they were Olympic historians, and they had been to 18 Olympics in total. They had actually just returned from the Pan Am Games, which happened in Toronto this summer. I got some advice from them about Rio, and I said I would see them there!

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Pins from the Fan Zone. We were giving them out for free- no trading necessary!

After I came back from the World Games, I wasn’t sure of what I should do with my pins. I definitely wanted to display them, so I could see them every day just like I could in my parents’ house. Eventually, I decided to arrange them on a bulletin board with my favorite photos from the Games. I just finished it this past week, and here’s the finished product:

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Thanks for reading! Please follow me for more updates on my Olympic journey!

Highlights from the Special Olympics World Games

Here are my top 5 favorite highlights from my experience at the World Games:

1. Being inspired by the athletes’ sportsmanship. The Special Olympics athletes at the World Games embodied everything I love about the Olympic Movement. Even though all of the athletes wanted to win gold, they still respected each other in the competition and outside of it. I saw the best example of athlete sportsmanship during the Award Ceremony for Artistic Gymnastics. One division of athletes contained two athletes, and at first, it was just a normal ceremony. The two athletes received their medals, and everyone watching cheered. Next though, one athlete took the hand of the other, and they raised up their hands together. It was so spontaneous and really spoke to the best parts of the human spirit. Even though one had won gold and the other silver and they were from different countries, they were still able to unite together in their accomplishments.

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Meeting up with the two Thomases from NYC

2. Being able to see the two competing athletes from Special Olympics New York City. During my time in LA, I was able to meet up with four athletes from Special Olympics New York. Two were competing in the World Games, one was the parent of one of the World Games athletes (and an athlete himself), and one was an athlete volunteer who didn’t make it to this World Games and decided to volunteer instead. It was amazing to find the Special Olympics New York family as far away as California.

I was able to cheer on Thomas, one of the NYC athletes, in his 4 by 100 relay. It was so exciting to watch him do what he excels at and loves to do. I joined the athlete volunteer from New York, all of Team USA, and his dad in cheering for Thomas and his team. In the end, they won a bronze medal in that relay! As for the other NYC athlete (also named Thomas), I just missed seeing him compete in Artistic Gymnastics, but luckily, I was still able to meet up with him afterward and see how he was doing. His coach let me come into the gymnastics practice room, and I was able to see Thomas with all of his teammates. He was having so much fun! In the end, Thomas won two silver medals and two bronze medals.

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IMG_9237 watermark3. Befriending my fellow volunteers. During the Games, I volunteered at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza in the Fan Zone. This meant that we helped to check in the team captains of large groups of Fans in the Stands. It was incredible how many people volunteered to cheer on the athletes. For a few sports, such as Artistic Gymnastics and Judo, the venues were completely full with Fans in the Stands. This in itself is amazing because most of the athletes’ families, friends, and other fans couldn’t come due to the distance. I also passed out “I’m a fan” pins and took photos of people in front of the Circle of Inclusion (as shown in the photo of some Fan Zone volunteers and me).

I was surprised by how quickly I became friends with all of the volunteers working in the Fan Zone. They were so friendly and answered every question an East Coaster had about the West Coast, which I really appreciated. I am so grateful that I was placed with such nice people. I hope they come to NYC to visit!
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4. Meeting so many new people. Everyone at the World Games was so unbelievably friendly. People actually said “Good morning” and walked around with smiles on their faces. In part, I believe it was the California weather affecting people’s moods. However, I also believe that everyone recognized how amazing this experience was, and no one wanted to ruin it.

I was able to meet people from all over the world! I even volunteered with a lady from India. In the past, she had gone to many World Games as the Head Coach of the Indian delegation, but this year, Special Olympics India told her to relax a little and only be a volunteer.

Here are some photos of people I met:

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Here is an athlete’s LA 2015 inspired hairdo. You can see the Reach Up LA logo. So cool!

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Here I am with an athlete from Venezuela. He came and introduced himself to all of the Fan Zone volunteers.

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Here is a photo with me and some of the Special Olympics Unified cheerleaders. They came from all over the country to cheer on the athletes.

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She won gold in horseback riding!

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Here’s a really sweet pug and his owner! His name is Zeus!

5. Traveling around LA. I love traveling to new places and having new adventures. Before going to LA for the World Games, Indiana was the farthest west I had ever been. Now that I’ve been all of the way to California, I can’t wait to go back! In a quick recap, I went to Malibu (and swam in the Pacific Ocean!), Santa Monica, Venice Beach (and saw Muscle Beach and the canals), the lights at LACMA, the Tar Pit, the handprints and stars in Hollywood (and put my hands in Daniel Radcliffe’s!), the LA Memorial Coliseum, a UCB show, the Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Bowl.

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This experience was absolutely amazing, and I can’t believe that it was almost a month ago. Volunteering at the Special Olympics World Games changed my life by showing me how big the world really is, how much more I want to do and see, how much I love helping and interacting with people, and how inspiring the human spirit can be. I’m excited to have more experiences like this, both with Special Olympics and elsewhere.

A Night to Remember: The LA 2015 Opening Ceremony

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Me at the Opening Ceremony

It’s crazy how fast time goes! On July 25, about 2 weeks ago, I went to the LA 2015 Opening Ceremony. That ceremony was so inspiring, and it really solidified my passion for the Olympic Movement.

The day started off with a trip to the Griffith Observatory, a really cool place to sightsee and to learn about science. Outside, there are amazing views, and I could see the Hollywood sign! Inside, there is a Tesla coil, planetarium, telescope, and sun analyzer. It was a really amazing way to start off my trip!

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Me outside of the Griffith Observatory

After that, I left for the Opening Ceremony. Before coming to LA, I didn’t expect the Metro to be as spread out as it was. Thankfully, I was staying near the Red Line, but my trips always ended up being an hour or longer. It was very obvious that people in LA usually drive everywhere. Along the way, I met a very chatty and nice woman who was also going to the Opening Ceremony. She was a proud parent of an athlete and showed me a shirt with his team’s photo on it. I also met someone who I stayed with for most of the time before the Ceremony. She was a local of California and was volunteering too! We got in line together with people from Special Olympics New York I knew, and the the waiting began. I was so excited for the ceremony and the entire week!

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Team New York

President Obama began the Opening Ceremony via video because he was in Kenya. After that, a few celebrities and athletes spoke, and then, it was the Parade of Athletes! I loved everyone’s outfits. Some were in standard Opening Ceremony uniforms while others dressed in traditional clothes from their countries.

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Look at the lady right next to the gray tarp. She’s in the center of the frame.

Cheering for 165 countries can become very tiring, but the fans never quit. Even though the United States was the host country (and thus had the most fans), we cheered as hard as we could for every country in order to celebrate how amazing all of the athletes were. The woman with the flag in the photograph to the left was one of the best fans I saw. She was so loud and so excited that it made everyone loud and excited! When Team USA came onto the field, the crowd went wild. Everyone in the stadium started chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and screaming.

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Team USA!

Once the Parade of Athletes ended, Timothy Shriver (Chairman of the Special Olympics and the son of the founder of Special Olympics), Maria Shriver (a famous journalist and the daughter of the founder of Special Olympics), and some Special Olympics Global Messengers gave speeches.

Here is everyone reciting the Athlete’s Oath. It goes, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” This forms the basic foundation for all of Special Olympics.

Later in the night, four Olympic athletes and four Special Olympic athletes carried the Special Olympics flag onto the stage and hoisted it up the pole. That was a very special moment for me because I love the Olympics so much, and I loved seeing athletes from the Olympics and the Special Olympics working together. Michael Phelps, Greg Louganis, Michelle Kwan, and Nadia Comaneci were able to join the Special Olympic athletes in their Ceremony, and they were so happy to be there.

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My favorite speech of the night was Tim’s. Tim is a Special Olympics athlete and the founder of Tim’s Place, a restaurant that serves all meals with a hug! He told everyone that dreams do come true because his dream to own a restaurant did! He introduced Michelle Obama onto the stage, and she declared the Games to be open.

The end of the Torch Run from Athens to LA came next. After seeing the World Games celebration in Bryant Park that was toward the beginning of the Torch Run, it was amazing to see the end. Avril Lavigne sang “Fly,” her song that was written just for Special Olympics, and Special Olympic athletes and Law Enforcement officers used the Flame of Hope to light the Olympic Cauldron for the first time since 1984. Fireworks erupted around the stadium, and everyone cheered in unity. The Games were now open! The whole thing made me cry because it was so beautiful.

The Opening Ceremony was one of the best experiences of my entire life, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. This is just the beginning of my recount of LA. In the next few days, look out for my next posts about volunteering!

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The 2016 Olympics

After watching the 2012 London Olympics, I promised myself that I would be at the next Summer Games. Last December, I applied to volunteer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am anxiously waiting to hear back about volunteering, but in the meantime, I bought four tickets to the Olympics! Just in case I am not selected to volunteer, I’m still going!

I’m so excited that I am actually able to do what I promised! I am ready to see what I have dreamed about for so long. There are a few problems such as cost and place to stay, but those can be addressed closer to the Games. The important thing is that I’m going to the Olympics!

Here are the events I’m going to see:

– Soccer (AKA Football), 8/3/2016

– Archery, 8/6/2016

– Handball, 8/15/2016

– Diving, 8/20/2016

I’m most excited about diving because I will be able to watch Tom Daley, the diver who inspired me to start diving, compete! I have less experience with the other three events, but I know they will be so cool to watch! After two ticket raffles and then some, I am ready to go to the Olympics (and of course I’ll blog the whole time I’m there)!

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Interning at a Nonprofit

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In addition to being an Olympics blog, I also want to talk about interning at nonprofits. Currently, I intern at Special Olympics New York, and I love it. I know that it’s what I want to do when I graduate, so that makes everything worth it. Sure, I do feel burned out sometimes. It’s normal when one does a lot of work without being paid. However, someone once told me that unpaid internships pay in experience, and especially at Special Olympics New York, it’s true. I have learned so much that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a class while doing something I love and for my future career. I will be staying on at Special Olympics New York until December.

At first glance, interning at nonprofits seems to be a tough sell because they are almost always unpaid. Most nonprofits unfortunately do not budget to pay their interns. It makes sense that nonprofits want to keep as much of their funding for the people they help, but it is still a huge problem because not everyone can afford to work for free. I’m interning and doing another job, but I wish I could afford to intern all the time. Interning is one of the most important things for someone concerned about his or her career to do.

Recently, I figured out how many hours I spent interning at my previous internship and how many I would have by the end of the summer. It was startling. At my previous internship at YAI Network (which I had for a year), I interned approximately 26,500 hours. By the end of this summer at Special Olympics New York, I’ll have interned or volunteered 70 hours. That’s a lot of unpaid labor, so why did I do it?

Pluses of Interning at a Nonprofit (in no particular order)

1. You are integral for an organization to accomplish its mission. You should choose a nonprofit that has a mission which you are passionate about. While working there, you will feel like you are making a difference, and you will be. The organization couldn’t help the people it serves without you.

2. All interning experience counts as real world experience, so it will stay on your resume long after you have to take your college experience off. Eventually, employers won’t be looking for who was president of what club, but they will always be looking for someone who has experience working in the field.

3. You can’t learn everything from class. Even though I’m a Nonprofit Studies minor, I have learned so many things at Special Olympics New York that I would never be able to learn in class. I get to learn by actually doing something, whether it is writing a grant proposal or researching possible sponsors or interacting with the athletes.

4. You get to start working on your career while you’re still in school, and while you can afford to be unpaid. More and more, internships are becoming vital to anyone interested in entering the nonprofit field. Employers look for experience over anything else. Because of this, it’s important that you get that experience while you can, so you don’t have to do it after you graduate.

5. It’s fun to escape college sometimes. I love my college, and I love my college friends, but sometimes, you need a break. You just need to leave the building and do something outside of your school. Interning at a nonprofit could be that something. It will make a difference to you to intern where you are making a difference for someone else.

I have used some nonprofit websites to find internships or places to volunteer like idealist.org and The Foundation Center, but the best things to rely on during your search are word of mouth and Google. Use your contacts! I got my first internship at YAI Network because my sister’s friend was temping there. I got my internship at Special Olympics New York by Googling Special Olympics New York City, going to its website, and emailing the person in the department I wanted to work in. Before interning, the best thing to do is to try out the organization beforehand by volunteering. Then you can see how the organization is from the inside with very little pressure.

Good luck interning or volunteering!

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