August 6, 2014
By Steve Helm
About 70 Special Olympics Texas athletes, Meet in the Middle (MiM) facilitators and Unified pairs of Youth Leaders participated in a the three-day Meet in the Middle Leadership Conference in Austin last weekend. On Saturday night, a Unified Sports demo and competition was held at Saint Louis King of France Catholic Church as a way to provide a variety of activities with the goal of equipping youth and facilitators to begin or expand their programming.
During the demo, teams put their sports skills to use in a bocce tournament and at soccer and flag football stations. Through this opportunity, participants got hands-on experience with Unified Sports, one of three core components of Project UNIFY.
Ms. Cynthia Starling and Coach Travis Maxey, of Claughton Middle School in Spring ISD (Houston), discussed how they got their school involved with MiM.
After seeing students with intellectual disabilities left out of activities at their school, Starling and Maxey were driven to find a way to unify them with their typically developing peers. Starling and Maxey heard about the MiM program through Special Olympics Texas staff and felt it had strong potential to work at their school.
Through hosting MiM for two years now, Starling claims her participants learn social skills, turn-taking, respect for one’s own materials, how to be competitive and how to deal with winning and losing.
Over the course of the weekend-long conference, Global Messengers served as guest speakers and workshops were held to inform attendees about Unified Sports and Unified Youth Leadership. MiM school panels also presented the projects and activities they have implemented at their schools. Participants represented seven of SOTX's 19 areas. Two months after holding the first MiM meeting, the program at Claughton got 25 participants. Since then, it has grown thanks to its student council members working diligently to get more students and teachers involved.