Special Olympics Louisiana Intern Named Southeastern Louisiana University Homecoming Queen

mattie hawkins

On Saturday, October 28, 2017, one of Special Olympics Louisiana’s interns, Mattie Hawkins, was named the 2017 Southeastern Louisiana University Homecoming Queen.

Mattie is studying to become a senior sports management major. She is the Chapter President of Delta Sigma Theta, a Project PULL mentor, a student worker in the Office of Disability Services, and an intern at Special Olympics Louisiana.

Upon hearing she had won Mattie was speechless, but afterwards said, “It was a major accomplishment to be crowned and I am proud to represent Southeastern Louisiana University and Special Olympics Louisiana.”

Breaking down the barriers of Down Syndrome

Last weekend, two students with Down Syndrome from West Orange High School were crowned King and Queen of Homecoming. Trazjuan Bubba Hunter (king) and Semone Adkins (queen) grew up together and are now sharing the experience of being High School royalty. This is the first time in Central Florida that two students with the condition have ever been voted onto Homecoming Court. West Orange students were proud they won and the quarterback for their football team, Hayden Griffitts, even commented, “This didn’t happen because we feel sorry for them or something. Just the opposite. They really deserve it. I mean, homecoming is about bringing people together and having fun. And that’s what they do.” Both Bubba and Semone were thrilled to represent their school and seemed excited to share their crowning moment.

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Read more about their crowning moment!

 

From Daddy’s Princess to Homecoming Queen

High school senior Jessica Giddens has down syndrome, but don’t think that is keeping her from achieving her dreams. Friday night her life changed forever when she was crowned Homecoming Queen for Lakeside High School in Georgia. Jessica proudly walked down the field on the arm of her father who fought in Afghanistan, but made it home to see his daughters dreams come true.

“When I became daddy’s little princess, I just turned into this queen,” Jessica said.

Support from her family, friends, and community lead Jessica to achieving her dream. “Her disabilities don’t limit her, and there’s so much that she brings and she’s full of spirit and she’s just awesome to be around,” stated friend Bailey Doss.

Inclusion of others no matter what their disability is focused on by Special Olympics. Project Unify promotes communities to work together to create a change in society giving respect, dignity, and becoming an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.

Inspirational Words and Stories

Every week we get newspaper articles and clippings when our name is mentioned in them. I was reading some of the articles from the past few weeks and came across two stories that made me stop and think. Working for Special Olympics Louisiana is a huge reward in itself, but often we get busy with what needs to be done and sometimes forget (only for a brief period) to appreciate what our organization does and means to SO many people. Hopefully these articles will make you smile and maybe help you to look at Special Olympics a little different than you might have before.

– 1st article was in the Courier, and ran on March 21st. Read the full article.
The part that really stood out was: “When she was born, Phyllis Toups’ daughter Lottie was given just six months to live. The family was referred to TARC in Houma, a program that then provided day programs for children and adults with disabilities. TARC Intake Specialist India Menard told Phyllis, ‘We’ll take Lottie, but you have to understand that we’re going to treat her like she’ll live forever, not like she’ll die tomorrow,‘ ” Toups said. “It meant so much to me to hear that. Before that, I was planning for her funeral. She gave me the hope that things could be different.” Today, Lottie is 29 years old. She’s currently enrolled in TARC’s dayhabilitation program, where she exercises, goes to music therapy and does arts and crafts.”

– 2nd article was in the Hammond Daily Star, and also ran on March 21st. Read the full article. “My daughter, Haley Ann Rose, is a 14-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed, lovely young lady. I remember the day that she was born just like it was yesterday.  It was then that the doctors told us the baby had Duodenal Atresia and would require surgery immediately after birth. They also said that is was a common characteristic of Down Syndrome. Haley unexpectedly made her entrance to the world six weeks premature and weighed 4 lbs. 12 oz. She had surgery after her birth and required a longer hospital stay. After a month old, she was able to come home. After doing much research, I walked into the doors of TARC in Hammond with her and received everything we needed to help her thrive. She was a very determined little one and never gave up, and neither did I.  I never gave up hope once and told myself that I would never hold her back and let her be who she was and we could hopefully inspire other families one day.
Her classmates voted her to be on the Homecoming Court of Loranger Middle School last fall. When I received the call that she had been nominated, I remember getting weak in the knees and asked how did that happen. They said that it was her friends at school who did this because they thought she deserved it….then they announced “The 2011 Loranger Middle School Homecoming Queen is Miss Haley Ann Rose.”
A few weeks ago was high school cheerleader tryouts. She went all of the days and tried out with the other girls. Once again I was amazed at the support she received from the school. She received a letter stating “Congratulations, you are a 2012 Loranger High School Cheerleader.”

We hear stories all the time how parents were told their child would never be able to walk, talk, etc. but now, because of those who believe differently we see how many things those with intellectual disabilities are capable of. It makes us happy to be able to look back and see what a difference time, faith and love can do. Happy Easter!