California – Los Angeles: Special Olympics

Andrew Lin

Andrew Lin is a fourth-year student at UCLA and President of the student organization, Special Olympics at UCLA. Andrew first began volunteering for Special Olympics in high school and immediately fell in love with the program, as it offered the unique opportunity to share his passion for basketball and tennis with a population that really lacked the resources to learn about those sports. Entering UCLA, Andrew knew he wanted to continue his involvement in the program and quickly joined the student organization. Special Olympics at UCLA is unique in that it is one of the only completely student-run Special Olympics branches. Founded in 1979, the program has had strong ties with both UCLA and Special Olympics for decades. Special Olympics at UCLA prides itself on making an impact in the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as the UCLA student body. For the past two years, the program has hosted campaigns to end the use of the R-word, affecting the way thousands of UCLA students view and interact with people with intellectual disabilities.

This summer, the organization has operated in the same ways it does during the school year. A typical day of volunteering starts away from UCLA in South Central Los Angeles, where most of the athletes live. The bus departs from UCLA to pick up the athletes at 8:15 AM and brings them to UCLA by 9:45 AM. Practices start off with stretches, followed by drills and scrimmages. As a volunteer, one has the opportunity to work with either the higher or lower functioning athletes. Higher functioning athletes are able to participate in activities almost independently while lower functioning athletes require a bit more attention. Practices end at 12:00 PM, at which time the bus brings all of the athletes back to South Central Los Angeles.

For Andrew, this service experience has been a defining factor in shaping his values. Teaching sports to individuals who struggle with the motor and coordination skills fundamental to most sports, such as running or jumping, has taught him how to be constantly empathetic and patient with others. Andrew explained, “While teaching and demonstrating the same drill repeatedly can sometimes be frustrating, nothing is more rewarding than witnessing an athlete succeed in making his first shot or crossover.” His favorite part about this program has been the long-term relationships he has formed with the athletes he coaches. “It has been truly rewarding watching athletes in this program grow both on and off the court. Many of our athletes have developed much greater skills in basketball and soccer along with a confidence that they carry to all other aspects of their lives.”

Other students can get involved with this organization by becoming a coach for the program or participating in their upcoming Unified Intramural League. As a coach, one would be able to work closely with athletes in developing basketball or soccer skills. As a participant in the Unified Intramural League, UCLA students can compete alongside other athletes, forming lasting friendships with Special Olympics athletes. Non-students can learn more about the cause and how to get involved by visiting Special Olympics’ national organization webpage.

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Area Served Westwood, Los Angeles
Service Organization Special Olympics at UCLA
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