By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
An Oklahoma State University student has been doing her part to assist in the Special Olympics Summer Games in different forms since the eighth grade.
Nicona Lane, 19, became involved through volunteering at the Special Olympics Village as part of the youth activation committee at Stillwater Junior High six years ago. When she made the move to Harrah in her sophomore year of high school, she got further involved through the Partners Club.
“The Partners Club is where students work with the athletes in Harrah for the sporting events,” she said. “They work in the school and come to the practices and participate with them. That’s how I really got involved.”
Lane said it was a different experience.
“I started going to the meetings and I had volunteered so I kind of knew what to expect, but the Partners Club kind of brought on a whole new dimension of volunteering and participating in Special Olympics,” she said.
As she began to attend OSU this year, she continued in her volunteer work by accepting an invitation to become a board member for Special Olympics Oklahoma. Lane previously had served on the Special Olympics Oklahoma Youth Activation Committee, which led to her invitation. She said she has been rewarded in the position and in what volunteering has done for her.
“What really got me hooked was that I think I learned more about myself by volunteering and working with them,” Lane said. “Going in high school, you start thinking about what you want to do with your life, where you want to go and I got hooked on the volunteering, got hooked on working with the kids and the atmosphere that it brings. It helped me kind of establish what I want to do with my life. It was a natural feeling to just participate and be involved.”
Once you begin volunteering with Special Olympics, you stay, she said.
“It’s hard to stay away from it,” she said.
As part of her duties, she attends at least four meetings a year, presents some of the work the youth action committee completes and the work being conducted in Stillwater. Lane said as a volunteer, you work with the athletes, but being a board member shows you all the intricate details that allows for the games to happen.
Opting to volunteer years ago led Lane to her present position. She said she could have never expected that would have happened. She sees her youth as giving another view to the work being done.
“I think they get to see, coming from a volunteer aspect and then coming from a person who was in the Partners Club, they get a different insight into it,” Lane said. “They get to see where I’m coming from and being at OSU, we’re trying to incorporate some stuff here on campus and we’re trying to get more youth involvement.”
The elementary education major has a long-term goal of also working in speech pathology and special education. She said her work with Special Olympics definitely impacted that move.
“It’s one of those things that I don’t know what else I would do just because I’ve been around this for so long, there’s nothing else I could really see myself doing,” she said.
As for those who may consider volunteering themselves, Lane said it’s a great experience.
“You learn so much about yourself and how sweet and how humorous and energetic the kids are,” she said. “It’s a life changing experience. It really is.”
The Special Olympics Summer Games, with a record setting 4,624 athletes participating, kicks off Wednesday with events at 8 a.m. and the opening ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. in Gallagher-Iba Arena.