Kara DiGregorio is a Milford High School student, a passionate youth leader and proof that the future is bright for inclusion and acceptance for all. The following is a speech she wrote for her school’s R-Word assembly on March 20th.
“The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.” quoted from Brian Tracy. Hi, my name is Kara DiGregorio, and I am a junior here at Milford High. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have figured things out at a very young age. I experienced things early on in my life, things that not every kid can experience. In sixth grade, I was asked to help out with our local Special Olympics basketball team. From that moment on I have been blessed to work with such incredible people. From the smiles, to the laughs, to the hard times, I could not thank Jen Walsh and Milford Special Olympics enough for all they’ve done for me. Being in middle school and standing up for something that you believe in was not easy, as you could imagine, but every Monday night when I was at practices with the Special Olympic athletes, I was given strength from each and every single one of them.
Special Olympics is a movement towards overall inclusion, beginning with sports. Today, sports are such a huge part of the society, and they create a certain common interest in all athletes. Having that common passion or interest is a great way to start building friendships. The amount of friendships that I have seen made as a result of basketball or track practices are truly inspiring.
Another great way that I’ve seen friendships made is by the club we have here at Milford, Best Buddies. From starting in 8th grade, to now being the president, I have seen so many friendships come in and out of the club. It has helped transform the vision of students with intellectual disabilities from negative to positive. Confidence in this school has also increased, creating a friendly and judgmental-free zone for the students with an intellectual disability.
The campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word’s main goal is to remove the word “retard” from vocabulary as a whole. There are so many hurtful and discriminating words that need to be ended, including the r-word. Everyone in this room has a certain phrase or adjective that they’d love to see erased from our vocabulary, whether others intend to use it for the literal meaning or not. So why do we use these words? To put down others? To feel superior? Because I am positive that the most confident I would ever be in my life would be the day that overall acceptance existed and these stereotypical words didn’t. The term acceptance is defined as the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a certain group. Well, what if every single one of us didn’t have to worry about being judged, or included into a certain group?
What if we lived in a world where everyone was happy because we were all treated fairly and equally like we should be? Let’s change these ‘what ifs’ into actual actions. Let’s focus less on the word DISABILITY, and more on the words ABILITY, and CAPABILITY because the only disability that I see is a bad attitude and not finding joy in life. I am so confident in this movement, and in our school to begin this journey towards inclusion together, all we need is to pledge to stop using such hurtful words, and to think before we speak. I am so proud to be a part of our generation, beginning the transformation of stereotypes into overall inclusion. So together, let’s promise to make this change within our community because I know that someday we all will be responsible for the huge success that this movement will become.