Special Olympics DC Hosts Special Olympics Jamaica for week of cultural sharing and connections!

Special Olympics DC hosted a group of students and mentors with and without intellectual disabilities from Special Olympics Jamaica as part of our first ever Unified Youth Exchange! The Unified Youth Exchange is sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Sport Diplomacy Department, with the goal of building bridges between cultures through sport. The Jamaican delegation consisted of Special Olympics athletes, classmates and teammates without disabilities, teachers, and staff from Kingston and St. Ann, Jamaica.

For one week, Special Olympics athletes and Unified Partners from Woodson High School in Northeast DC acted as hosts for the Jamaican group, showing them a week in the life of a DC Special Olympics athlete.

It was a jam-packed week:

Tuesday – Welcome Assembly at Woodson High School, Unified Soccer Game, Pentagon City Mall visit

Wednesday – Touring Woodson High School, Unified Netball Game, Natural History Museum, Washington Wizards Game

Thursday – Youth Leadership Summit at Special Olympics Headquarters, Game and Movie Night

Friday – White House Visit, Shopping at Walmart and Tangier Outlets, TopGolf, and the hardest goodbye!

By the end of the week, the students were cemented as best friends. Students bonded over tv shows, a love of shopping, and the similarities between basketball— the DC students’ favorite sport— and netball— the Jamaican students’ favorite sport.

“This was eye-opening to me, to see that there is no boundary, to see that the sky is the limit.” -Denisher, Youth Leader from Special Olympics Jamaica

The overall take away from the experience? That we have much more in common than we think! In May, Special Olympics Jamaica will return the favor and host 12 Special Olympics DC students and staff in Kingston for a week of reunion and Jamaican experience.