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Student receives Special Olympics grant

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Student receives Special Olympics grant

The Special Olympics Club at NU received the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant to continue their work with local elementary schools.

The Special Olympics Club at NU received the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant to continue their work with local elementary schools.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

The Special Olympics Club at NU received the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant to continue their work with local elementary schools.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

The Special Olympics Club at NU received the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant to continue their work with local elementary schools.

Jenna Clark, news correspondent

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Sitting in a gym in New Hampshire, Kaylie DeCosmo, a freshman in high school at the time, never would have imagined that in eight years she would receive a $2000 grant in her name to benefit a Special Olympics club that she would co-found.  

DeCosmo, now a fourth-year health science major, co-founded the Special Olympics Club at Northeastern along with fourth-year health science major Jared Jacobson. DeCosmo was inspired by the basketball special education team that she coached in high school.

The club plans to use the funds from the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant to expand their work with the special education department of two elementary schools in the greater Boston area, Joseph Lee K-8 School and Warren-Prescott School.

“Trying to make transportation easier for members of the club to get to the schools is our number-one priority,” Jacobson said. “We also buy some equipment once a year for two schools. Last year we got velcro basketball shoes so they can put them on themselves.”

While working at the schools the last semester, DeCosmo noticed that students with intellectual disabilities were not getting a lot of recess time to play outside, she said, so she and fellow club members volunteered once every week to organize activities for them. They divided the students’ lunch time so they would have time to eat and time to play.

In addition, DeCosmo is aiming to get more of Northeastern’s student body involved with helping the special education students develop skills they will show off at a final event like jumping, running and playing sports.

“I am very excited to see the opportunities we’re going to be able to give these students,” DeCosmo said, “and I’m very excited to be able to see it pay off and the end result. I can’t wait until we can have an event for these students to be so proud of what they worked for.”

The club was founded two years ago and currently meets every Thursday. Aside from volunteering at local schools, the club also organizes other events, like the Special Spirit basketball game. This game is a competition between two local high schools’ special education basketball teams, and takes place at Northeastern’s Cabot Center.

By getting more students involved, DeCosmo hopes that Northeastern can become a Unified Champions School, a name the Special Olympics gives to schools that have especially inclusive programs for students with disabilities. She said she wants to get both club and varsity athletes more involved with Special Olympics to work toward this goal.

DeCosmo said she is drawn to Special Olympics because of her athletic background. She is captain of the Northeastern club field hockey team and has been playing sports since she was four years old. Because of all the support her parents gave her, she said she wants to give back to people who don’t have the same opportunities and give them the chance to do what she loves so much.

“A few athletes in particular I’ve worked with in Special Olympics will forever be in my heart,” DeCosmo said. “I can remember them smiling, and this is why I do this. Knowing how much they appreciate it is just huge, and that’s what keeps me going.”

Working with Special Olympics is just one of the components of DeCosmo’s schedule. She is also working a full-time co-op at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and studying for the Medical College Admissions Test, as she plans to attend medical school and become a surgeon. She applied to Northeastern’s master’s program, hoping to earn her master’s in public health next year before medical school.

Talia Gabriel, the Special Olympics Massachusetts urban schools initiatives manager, works closely with DeCosmo on the project.

“[Kaylie] is a game-changer. She’s super energetic and very passionate about Special Olympics and making sure the club and campus is involved.”

DeCosmo said if she wasn’t doing something from morning to night she wouldn’t be herself, and her biggest flaw is trying to please everyone else without worrying about herself. But she said she never regrets her busy schedule, and said her work with Special Olympics is worth everything she puts in.

“I probably tear up every time I help them, and I’m not that type of emotional person, but just every practice I go to I get the chills, just to see them happy,” DeCosmo said. “Seeing them work through their obstacles in their daily lives, working so hard and being so motivated and happy is a feeling I can’t even explain.”

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