GiveAbility members act as agents of change, creating connections with children with special needs

Shreya Daschoudhary

Staff Writer

     One of the most exciting events GiveAbility participates in is the Special Olympics, hosted every year at American. Special Olympics a full-day soccer tournament in which teams made up of students with special needs from various schools in Fremont gather together and compete for victory.

     Although the main athletes participating in the fast-paced 15-minute matches are students with special needs, numerous other volunteers offer their aid throughout the event. The most prominent of said volunteers are the GiveAbility members, who spend the day out on the field as well, proudly taking part in representing American. But what exactly inspires them to take up such an essential role?

     Katrina Chang (9) states that she was first drawn to the club because she “[liked] how you could help others and also get service hours.” 

     As a freshman, the Olympics were Chang’s first experience with the various student-led service opportunities that high school offers. 

     “It was a fun event, and a cool experience… I liked how the volunteers were really nice and patient… I’d like to come back for more events and see what else I can get involved with,” Chang says. 

     Like Chang, GiveAbility’s secretary Farha Shaik (10) was also involved in the club in ninth grade. Like many freshmen who sign up for clubs, Shaik first joined GiveAbility under the premise that she could get her volunteer hour requirements done quickly. However, her past experiences with students with special needs inspired her to pursue a leadership position within the club. 

     “I had previously worked with special needs kids… in fifth and sixth grade… it was a bit awkward and confusing, but it was just nice to see their smiles at the end,” Shaik remarks. 

     Shaik hopes that her leadership position will allow her to contribute to the club on a higher degree, and make more advancements. 

     “[Last year], we accomplished a lot and really got [across] the message that we’re trying to work with special needs kids… I’m happy this year we got to [participate] in the Special Olympics because I could tell people really enjoyed it.”

     Club presidents are elected because of their passionate dedication to the cause, and this is absolutely true for GiveAbility club president Naomi Szeto (12), who states, “In freshman year, I didn’t really know much about [GiveAbility]. [In sophomore year], I heard about it, and I liked what they stood for. I think it’s a really valuable club, and what they offer is really unique.”  

     Szeto mentions that what really sparked her motivation to commit to the cause was what she experienced during her first year in the club. 

     “I went to the Special Prom for the first time in sophomore year, and it was honestly one of the most incredible volunteering experiences I’ve ever had. And so, I wanted to get involved in more events just like that, we well as allow other American students to experience things like that,” she fondly recalls. 

     As a graduating senior, Szeto says that her final wish for the club is that “the goal stays true, and that [it] remains intentional in [its] pursuit of connecting American students.”

    Like many other service clubs at American, GiveAbility’s goal is to rally ranks of like-minded students and work to help the community. What’s special about this club? Its mission to unite students of all kinds at American. 

    “They just have a disability, but that doesn’t make them any less people. Increased exposure means increased acceptance,” concludes Szeto.

AHS student Ashley Nguyen (12) faces off against a student with special needs from Washington in an intense soccer match during the Special Olympics that took place on November 1st. Various other GiveAbility volunteers as well as children with special needs can be seen as well, giving it their all in the games. 

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