Special Olympics Virtual Talent Show Brings together Young People from Mexico to Morocco
23 September 2020

Throughout the current COVID crisis, students around the world have faced new challenges in learning in virtual settings, long days at home, and socializing with their friends. This has posed additional challenges for students with intellectual disabilities. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented face-to-face activities, the need to empower young people and recognize their talents remains very much central to the student experience.

The Special Olympics Unified Schools program promotes meaningful social inclusion by offering inclusive sport programming, known as Special Olympics Unified Sports®, for students with and without intellectual disabilities. In order to provide an opportunity for connection, and to celebrate the talents of young people who participate in Special Olympics Unified Schools, Special Olympics Mexico and Special Olympics Morocco joined forces for a global virtual talent show as part of the Play Unified : Learn Unified initiative, made possible by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Nearly 200 people tuned in for the live event on Facebook, and the video has seen over 12,000 views since the original live broadcast. The success of this event was the connection and celebration of students across borders, languages, and abilities. This event marks the first time students from Special Olympics programs in Mexico and Morocco came together in support of a common goal: inclusion and connection.

The talent show highlighted 20 students with and without intellectual disabilities who performed their talents in pairs known as Unified Pairs. The students recited poetry, played instruments, painted, and performed song and dance. The performances were judged by Nizar Ghaly, a young Moroccan artist, Joaquin Beltran, a retired Mexican soccer player, and Scott Gerson from Special Olympics International’s Global Youth Engagement team.

Enrique Púlido, an Athlete from Special Olympics Mexico, participated in drawing along with America Cuevas. He said, “For me it is very important to meet people and participate in Special Olympics events. I feel important when I participate.”

The virtual talent show, like many Unified Schools events, provided an opportunity for students from across the world to work together, meet others, and celebrate each other during a time when many are isolated.

“Participating in this Unified Schools event made my heart beat again. Sharing with Lucero was a great experience. Thank you, Special Olympics, for keeping us together and always sharing moments that bring color to life.” Ana Oropeza, a Unified Partner from Special Olympics Mexico who performed a dance with her partner, Lucero Alvarez. Other participants described the event as a celebration of humanity, which provided happiness and motivation for everyone involved. The talent show served as a reminder of the importance of youth, art, and connection, especially in times of uncertainty.

Special Olympics Mexico and Special Olympics Morocco are two of fourteen Special Olympics country branches around the world that have received a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to support the expansion of Special Olympics Unified Schools through the Play Unified : Learn Unified project. Through inclusive sports programming in over a dozen countries around the world—including Chile, Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Indonesia, and Greece—Play Unified : Learn Unified promotes equal participation by all young people, with and without intellectual disabilities, both on and off the playing field.

By Special Olympics