Evan Heller grew up with first-hand knowledge of those with intellectual disabilities with his mom serving as an intensive special needs teacher at the middle school in his town. Having individuals with intellectual disabilities in his life is so natural, at the young age of 18 he has already dedicated nearly a decade to Special Olympics. In this time he has taken on a variety of different positions with Special Olympics ranging from chaperone to coach to intern at the organization’s south section office.
While he has enjoyed each new mission with Special Olympics he has a particular passion for a charge he took on in 2008 with Project Unify©. His dedication to the group was so impressive he was asked to attend a first-time meeting of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY® National Education Conference and the National Youth Activation Summit at the 2010 USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. As athletes broke barriers on the field through achievements in sports, Evan and 15 additional youth and Special Olympics members attended a debut, groundbreaking forum to increase awareness and understanding of those with intellectual disabilities.
Since that time, Evan has taken on the challenge of promoting school communities where young people are agents of change. In over three years he has worked from Attleboro Youth Activation Summit student to a member of the National Youth Activation Committee; he was inducted as a member in the fall of 2011. During his time with Project Unify, Evan acted as an agent of change in his school and his community to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of those with intellectual disabilities, using Special Olympics as a catalyst. Although Evan has worked for nearly a decade to improve the lives of Special Olympics’ athletes, he feels the organization has had a major impact on his life and that he would be lost without the organization. He credits his involvement with Special Olympics for shaping his world, giving him a strong work ethic and innumerable opportunities.
Currently, Evan is a very busy freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst studying to achieve a dual-degree in Social Thought and Political Economy and Sociology with minors in English and Anthropology. Although he does not have much free time, he is still dedicated to Special Olympics. He claims his involvement with the organization has shaped who he is today; seeing the effects of change through Project Unify has inspired him to develop as a community leader and activist. He looks forward to remaining involved with the organization well into the future.