Carlos Gonzalez has been a Special Olympics DC athlete since starting high school at Coolidge High School in Petworth, NW DC, two years ago. He has played soccer, volleyball, flag football, track & field, and more through the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program. That was Carlos how met Katherine Fuentes, now a close friend.

Katherine is one of many peers at Coolidge High School who does not have disabilities, and has had the opportunity to engage with special education students in school through Unified Sports and Coolidge’s Unified Club. Katherine attends the club to hang out with friends, play sports, and make connections with students who sometimes feel isolated. The club practices life skills together like gardening and cooking, and plays sports like Unified flag football and soccer. Katherine says, “If it weren’t for Special Olympics and Unified Club, I wouldn’t have any of these friends, and wouldn’t have the chance to know anyone with disabilities. Carlos is a really great friend and we teach each other a lot.”

Along with Coolidge Special Education teacher Ms. Beth Sewell, Carlos and Katherine will travel to Berlin, Germany this June to attend the World Games Youth Leadership Experience. They were one of a handful of youth and mentor groups selected from across the U.S. to attend the prestigious leadership summit focused on advocating for youth with disabilities. 

“Special Olympics has been so important to me. It’s something to keep me out of trouble, to make my dad proud. it’s all about making friends and making a difference.” – Carlos Gonzalez, Sophomore

In preparation for the five-day Global Youth Leadership Summit, Carlos and Katherine and their mentor and Coolidge High School teacher Ms. Sewell have been building upon their leadership skills through school activities and advocacy to D.C. leaders. The pair:

  • participated in the Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day, attending advocacy training with their peers from all over the U.S. and meeting with Congressional Staff
  • met with DC Councilmember Charles Allen to share the impact of their participation in Special Olympics D.C. Unified Programs
  • met Special Olympics Global Ambassador and WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre
  • attended a reception to kick off the Paris 2024 Olympics at the French Embassy as honored guests

At the Global Youth Leadership Summit Berlin, Carlos and Katherine will attend cultural tours, project management sessions, inclusive mindset training, youth leadership seminars, and work in regional break-out meetings. 

Youth will activate together to engage and call on policymakers to be proactive in breaking down barriers for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

By the numbers, the Global Youth Leadership Summit will welcome 100 youth with and without disabilities from 45 countries, including just a handful of youth from other U.S. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. We are so excited for Carlos, Katherine, and Ms. Sewell’s big trip abroad and all the wonderful memories and skills they will bring back to the District from their global peers.