Maya Thompson, a senior at Mead High School, has been a big influence on special needs organizations in the St. Vrain Valley area. Her legacy is one she hopes to leave behind.
As a freshman, Thompson searched for something to get involved with and discovered the Unified Sports program at Mead High School. Initially she thought it would be a fun activity, but little did she know the experience would change her and shape her future too.
“I really enjoyed it and making new connections with people who you would have never made connections with if you weren’t a part of it. It is really fun to make those connections that are so different from your typical friends that you would make. They are so loving and compassionate,” Thompson said.
Over the years, she expanded her interest and got involved with the Special Olympics. In June 2022, Thompson applied for and received a grant from Special Olympics International to organize six community events. She organized all district gatherings that created social gatherings for families involved with the Special Olympics.
“The point was to have a rural community setting that was able to have these different families — across the school district — … to make different connections and to have more accessibility in closer proximity to their homes,” Thompson said.
Thompson also sits on the Special Olympics board as a youth representative. There she advocates for the youth perspective to make things better for younger participants in the program. She is also on the Youth Activation Committee for Special Olympics Colorado. This program is formed from 20 youths across the state who organize inclusion activities statewide.
Her experience working with special needs students and an interest in physiology inspired Thompson to explore occupational therapy as a career.
“Working with people in high school has led me to know what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she said.
Thompson plans to attend the University of Arizona in the fall. Until then she hopes to host more community events for the Special Olympics. She is also searching for someone else to take up the mantle because the families involved really enjoy the gatherings.
“I think most people who are involved with people with special needs have unlimited perspective on life. My perspective on people that are different has drastically changed. Being able to have such meaningful connections with people who you think are so different from you and they really aren’t that different at all. That opened my eyes the most,” Thompson said.