Ryan Vazza is an intern for Special Olympics Massachusetts through the Bank of America Student Leader Program. This program pairs juniors and seniors with nonprofits and allows them to work with these organizations for the summer. In addition, the program brings Student Leaders from across the country to Washington, D.C for a week-long summit filled with speakers, lessons, and learning. This is his reflection on his experience.
- Describe Special Olympics Massachusetts’s mission in your own words.
Special Olympics Massachusetts’s mission can be described in three words; equality through sports. Sports serve as a portal into the real world. They are a catalyst for interaction, a catapult for communication skills. Sports allow for the development of independence, courage, and hundreds of other skills that athletes use to improve and enrich their lives. Special Olympics Massachusetts does all this and more, giving the athletes a place to relax and have fun, while simultaneously building their relationship skills.
- Why is this mission important to you personally?
This mission is important to me because everyone in the world deserves equal opportunity. In the past, the solution for those with intellectual disabilities would be to isolate them from society. We closed them off in dark corners, keeping their gifts and talents shadowed from the world. Instead, we as a community, should accept them. We should cherish their gifts and view them as unique instead of different. Throughout high school, I was never involved in Best Buddies or any other Special Olympics activities. Now I truly see how much I missed out on. How I missed the glint of determination in an athlete’s eye when they attempt a goal. Or the lighting up of a parent’s face when they see their child conquer that goal. This mission is so important to me because through the simple activity of sport, people’s lives are changed.
- What are you most excited about learning at Special Olympics Massachusetts? What have you learned during your internship?
- I am most excited about learning how to communicate the mission/goals of a nonprofit organization to possible donors and getting their support. I have never been a good speaker, yet when I become involved in a mission, my passion motivates me. I have seen myself gain confidence and fortitude when speaking for my organization because I am campaigning for a cause so much bigger than myself. I am also excited to learn all the trials and tribulations a big nonprofit such as Special Olympics Massachusetts goes through and how each and every staff member contributes to the overall goals and aspirations of the company.
- I have learned that being flexible is one of the best qualities to possess in the nonprofit field. One must constantly be open to changing plans and shifting schedules. Another thing I learned is to ask questions. It is always better to ask questions than to assume. Independence is one thing, but everybody who has ever worked a new job has needed guidance. Finally, I learned that life is all about communication and introductions. You have to go out and talk to people. You have to get involved. Dive feet first into your job, never fearing the crashing waves below you. Immerse yourself in your work and in the nonprofit sectors. Nonprofits have missions to better the world. When you believe in your mission, your job ceases to be a job, and becomes a lifestyle. Here is an example of a video I made of some events:
- What was your biggest take-away from the Student Leadership Summit?
My biggest take-away from the Student Leadership Summit was by far the connections I made with people around the country. From Texas to California to Minnesota, I met people from different cultures and walks of life. Yet through our differences, we were the same. We are all committed to making changes. We are all confident in our abilities. We are all not afraid to make our voices heard. My biggest take away that these people, these BOA Student Leaders, are my family. No matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. we are one family, one group, united in fighting for what is right. I know that my future will cross paths with some of these people and I am forever grateful for this experience that has really changed my focus in life.
- How did you hear about Bank of America’s Student Leader program and why was this a program you wanted to participate in?
I heard about it from my Guidance Office. My guidance counselor always knew I was interested in the nonprofit sector. So, when this internship was introduced to her she thought of me and emailed the application to me. When reading through it, I immediately believed this program would be perfect for me. I would be working for a nonprofit, being sponsored by a great company, and would be travelling to Washington, D.C. with other kids just like me. This week would be a great introduction to college life and would also help me change aspects of my community on a larger scale, an opportunity many kids do not have. This program was so perfect for me because I wanted to change people’s lives. My prior jobs were a cashier and a laborer, and although there is a need for these professions in the world, they weren’t for me. This internship allowed me to make a difference at my workplace. It allowed me to change lives.
- At the end of the internship, what do you hope to walk away with?
Above all, I hope to form life long relationships with great people. Everyone I work with is so passionate and committed to such a great cause and have welcomed me in with open arms. The nonprofit sector is diverse and constantly expanding, and I hope the skills I learn here will allow me to work for nonprofits in future summers. In college I am applying for the Global Health Corps program internship and I hope this internship will prepare me for a more difficult and higher stress job. I also hope to walk away with communication and management skills that can aid me in jobs in the future.
My dream job would be to be to be the head volunteer coordinator of a program in a low-income area in the United States. When volunteering on a mission trip in Mississippi, I realized that many areas in the United States are still years away from sustenance. Kids wear the same clothes for weeks, get jumped in front of their parents and miss 1-2 meals a day. I would want to lead a Big Brother program or some other company similar to the AmeriCorps as I have always enjoyed working with kids. I would be very involved on the local level so that I could make accurate and fitting changes to the entire company.
Thank you to Bank of America for giving me the experience of a lifetime!
Intern at Special Olympics Massachusetts