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Pair of Iowans Representing the U.S. at Special Olympics Youth Leadership Summit

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dozens of friends and family were on hand to send off Roosevelt juniors Joy Rector and Evie Sly at the Des Moines airport. The pair of girls are just one of six representing the United States at the Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit. They will learn how schools in other countries foster relationships between students with special needs and those without.

“We are going to head to Abu Dhabi and learn a lot from others and also share to the world what we do here in Des Moines, Iowa, to help promote inclusion and learn about inclusion and what they do around the world and then bring it back here to Des Moines,” said Sly.

Rector is a seasoned Special Olympics athlete competing in baseball, bowling, swimming and track. The pair plans to tell their peers about the Des Moines School District's unified sports teams; teams which are made up of both general and special education students. When they return, the pair plans to found a unified bowling team.

They were selected after submitting a video entry, and Rector says she is still not sure how to describe the feeling.

“I really don’t know,” Rector laughed. “I think we were both in shock,” said Sly.

Their chaperone on the trip is Bryan Coffey, director of Unified Programs for Special Olympics Iowa. He says this is the trip of a lifetime.

“This isn't just another airplane ride to the other side of the world, but really what this is, is an opportunity for Des Moines to shine. This is huge. Special Olympics Iowa has never had the opportunity to be represented at a global youth summit by youth leaders,” said Coffey.

There will be 35 countries represented at the conference.

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