Leslie Ann Siy is the current Director for the Special Olympics World Games’ Families Program and a Bruin alumna.
She graduated in 2005 with a degree in Sociology after participating in a variety of volunteer experiences during her UCLA career. Leslie Ann has always had a passion for service, participating in a wide range of organizations from those caring for dogs to those combatting homelessness. This passion drove her to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.
Leslie Ann’s past positions have primarily involved fundraising and development. Working as the Families Program Director for the Special Olympics World Games has been her first experience with programming. However, this was not her first time working with people with intellectual disabilities: Leslie Ann has also volunteered with Best Buddies, an organization that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), for over two years. She loved building a one-on-one relationship with a buddy by talking weekly and hanging out at least once a month.
Leslie Ann’s current position is a perfect opportunity for her because of her loves of people and giving back. In fact, she describes being recruited for the position as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Her journey with the Special Olympics World Games began last February, and she has been working tirelessly ever since to ensure the family members of the 7,000 athletes coming to Los Angeles have the best experience possible.
Her work began with determining what the Families Program would actually include. Now, over 5,500 family members from 95 different countries have registered to come to the Games, and Leslie Ann’s goal is to create a positive experience from the moment they land at LAX. Her vision was to create an easy, organized, and fun environment, which means helping the families with anything from arranging their travel visas or beating LA traffic to just having a good time. The program begins with a Welcome Reception at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where family members will be given credentials for priority seating, both for the competitions and the award ceremonies. Families will also be provided access to a Games Shuttle to travel between their hotels and competition areas, as well as to special events. Leslie Ann has planned daily activities for the families and athletes, including exclusive tickets to museums and attractions throughout LA. All of this information has been available to families through monthly newsletters leading up to the Games, and it is all a result of Leslie Ann’s hard work.
Leslie Ann is most excited to finally meet all of the coordinators she has been communicating with from around the world to make the Families Program possible. Working with different coordinators from 95 different countries has not only exposed Leslie Ann to different cultures, but also allowed her to form strong friendships. She is also looking forward to cheering on the athletes!
Having experience with Best Buddies and Special Olympics World Games has increased Leslie Ann’s awareness of the intellectual disability community, opening her eyes to what an awesome community it is and how much it contributes to society. Leslie Ann said that when athletes came to visit her office, “they would make everyone feel good about the work we are doing.” After the Games end, Leslie Ann hopes to remain connected to Special Olympics. She has learned that community service is what makes life worth living. Caring about others and giving to others is what makes her happy, and she hopes that sharing her experiences can inspire UCLA community members to get involved as well.