Two LHS students selected to represent Kansas in Special Olympics North America


Seniors Gracie Flannigan and Katherine Stineman pose for an instagram photo to announce they have been selected to represent Kansas for Special Olympics North America.

By Iris Sherron, Reporter

Gracie Flannigan and Katherine Stineman, both seniors, were selected in the late summer to represent Kansas for Special Olympics North America (SONA). Special Olympics provides a year-round sports and athletic training program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Flannigan and Stineman are two of only twenty-eight SONA youth ambassadors across the country. 

“I am most excited about meeting and working with SONA staff and other ambassadors,” Stineman said. 

Flannigan and Stineman have both participated in Unified Sports, an organization that includes participants with and without intellectual disabilities onto one sports team. At Lawrence High, the Unified Sports team competes in basketball in the fall and winter and soccer in the spring.

“Gracie and I will be trying to get Unified Sports in as many schools in Kansas as possible,” Stineman said. “Unified brought us together and we want others to be able to experience that kind of inclusion.”

Flannigan and Stineman were nominated by Special Olympics Kansas to apply for the youth ambassador position. To be selected for the position, the team spent a few months preparing a written application and then participated in multiple Zoom interviews.

As ambassadors, Flannigan and Stineman will represent SONA at conferences, speaking engagements, and on social media. The duo has already completed online leadership and inclusivity training, ambassador training, and  some social hours. 

“I am most excited about getting to spend time with my new friends and travel eventually,” Flannigan said. 

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Flannigan and Stineman were going to have the opportunity to travel to Washington DC, San Diego, or Chicago and possibly even Sweden with SONA. Unfortunately, all of those trips have been cancelled and they are meeting strictly online.

“We meet at least once every week on Zoom, sometimes more, to discuss, plan, and form relationships with the other ambassadors,” Stineman said.

Even though they are working remotely, Flannigan and Stineman are still able to complete projects that promote inclusivity and acceptance.

“Gracie and I have our first speaking engagement coming up via Zoom, presenting to the Association for Middle Level Education about how to be more inclusive in school,” Stineman said.