Ellington — Olivia Wright, an 18-year-old 2021 graduate of Ellington High School, earned a Girl Scouts of America Gold Award for her work to make sure families of students with disabilities are aware of Unified Sports and other programs, and what they offer.
Wright was honored at a ceremony, on June 14, in the EHS gymnasium, which included her family, friends, school staff, and other Scouts.
Wright said that her own disabilities made her a quiet and shy student, but as a freshman at EHS, she overheard a conversation about the Unified Basketball team, which prompted her to look into it, and then sign up. She hadn’t heard of the program previously, but said she wished she had. Thus, she wanted to make sure families knew what was available for their children.
“Everyone was so nice and so inclusive,” Wright said of her time playing basketball. “I was really shy, but then I learned that people don’t really care. They were really nice.”
She developed a brochure that includes information about programs including Spirit Horse Connecticut, Special Olympics Connecticut, Arc of Farmington Youth Activity Club, TOPSoccer, and more. The flyer has since gone to 3,200 families in Ellington and the surrounding area.
“I did a lot of research of Unified Sports for any ages in Connecticut,” Wright said. “I put it all together on a brochure, and my team members helped me distribute it to families of students with disabilities.”
Dr. Kristy LaPorte, the director of Special Services at Ellington Public Schools, was on Wright’s team and helped identify the families, via case managers, and was able to facilitate sending the flyer to them electronically.
Jessica Marshall, Wright’s project advisor and Unified Basketball coach said the project has been a “labor of love” for Wright.
“She has been a leader, and grown as a leader, in her time with Unified,” she said. “The value in her experience, and what she took away from it, has been an example for all the other kids. You could see the joy in her face when she played every year, and her desire to spread that same experience to other kids is why we’re here today.”
“It gives you a ton of hope for what the future of our community and our nation,” said State Rep. Jamie Foster, who presented Wright with a legislative citation. “These young people take these amazing and beautiful leadership opportunities in our community. They really know, because they are members of our community, at a different level than many of the adults serving in leadership positions, what the needs of our community are. They identify a need, and make it happen.”
Ellington First Selectman Lori Spielman also presented Wright with a proclamation from the town.
Wright’s Troop leader, Chris Keune, said the Gold Award is the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award, and is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.
“Olivia had to determine a root cause. She had to find a community, national, and/or local link. She needed to show leadership by obtaining a team and being the leader of the team,” Keune said, adding that the project also had to meet the requirement of sustainability, which was done by creating an electronic version that can be updated and re-sent, and it has to be measurable, which was met by feedback from the families and an increase in attendance in the programs.
“I’ve gotten really cool feedback from people saying they’ve really enjoyed one of the activities I’ve put down there. It’s already making a difference,” Wright said.