They take a great photo together but Joy Rector and Evie Sly are anything but posers. Their friendship is real and longstanding.

Through parental mutual acquaintances, the juniors at Roosevelt High School met on the cusp of entering middle school as 6th graders at Merrill. They got ice cream together. Over that Labor Day weekend, they randomly ran into each other while spending the holiday at Clear Lake. They’ve been pals ever since, regularly hanging out and watching movies, going shopping or grabbing something to eat; routine activities that friends share. In March, though, their relationship is really going places – a “Special” trip to Abu Dhabi!

Joy and Evie are one of only seven pairs of students from around the world selected to attend the Global Youth Summit that coincides with the 2019 Special Olympics World Games that run March 14-21.

Last fall they submitted an application, sort of an audition tape. Lo and behold, they won the right to go global with their story of mutual acceptance and respect.

“At the GYS, Joy and Evie will interact with other Unified Champion Pairs from around the globe to create inclusive activities between students in general education and students in special education,” said Kelly Mackey, Special Education Teacher and Special Olympics Delegation Manager at Roosevelt. “They will interact with other Unified Pairings to learn what is happening in other communities and bring these activities back to the US, Iowa and Roosevelt. This is the first time Special Olympics Iowa has sent anyone to the Global Youth Summit. According to them, this is huge!”

Bryan Coffey is the Director of Unified Programs for Special Olympics Iowa and he will accompany Joy and Evie on their excellent adventure, quite a chaperone gig.

“Joy and Evie are just wonderful,” Coffey said. “Their friendship is genuine and encouraging to other students at Roosevelt. Very soon it will be an example for students across the world.”

The Unified Champion Schools movement at Special Olympics is similar to the Best Buddies program that thrives at Roosevelt and other DMPS schools. There is a shared emphasis on bringing students together who might not otherwise mix. At Special Olympics, sports is the context for those relationships. Unified teams are comprised of students with and without intellectual disabilities. It works, as evidenced by the annual Rider Pride basketball game at Roosevelt, a Best Buddies fundraiser at the school that packs the gym every year.

As DMPS grows into its now formal partnership with Special Olympics, district schools will field unified teams in basketball, bowling and track, initially. So far, the parties are hitting it off like Joy and Evie did when they first met. Not that there haven’t been any hiccups.

“Sometimes I embarrass Joy,” Evie said. “Like if we’re riding in the car and a song comes on that I like and I start dancing and singing, she rolls her eyes at me.”

No worries; no grudges.

“Evie’s my best friend,” Joy said. “I love her.”

The feeling is mutual. It shows every time they strike a pose.

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