By Suzanne Freeman

Manwadu Rofhiwa, 17, celebrates at the closing ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in Dublin, Ireland. Manwadu and (behind him) Kamna Prem, 13, are two of the 38 student members of the Global Youth Summit. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

June 29—The end of the Special Olympics World Games in Dublin, Ireland, marks the beginning of two years of hard work for the 38 members of the Global Youth Summit (GYS). Their initiation into the Global Youth Advisory Council for Special Olympics began as the excitement built before closing ceremonies in Croke Park today.

"Your role now is to send us advice and ideas, and to spread the word of Special Olympics," said GYS leader Ron Vederman, at a meeting before the ceremonies.

Members of the Global Youth Summit, now the Global Youth Advisory Council for the Special Olympics, pose for one last group photo at the World Games closing ceremonies at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

While attending the World Games, GYS members held several forums to discuss discrimination against people with mental disabilities. They met with freedom fighter and former South African President Nelson Mandela and other dignitaries; and taped a show for MTV with Special Olympics President Tim Shriver, actors Colin Farrell and Kimberly Elise, hip-hop founder Rev. Run of Run DMC, and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. The also covered Olympic competitions, writing stories and taking pictures for the Special Olympics Gazette and Scholastic News Online.

"It's been a good roller-coaster ride," said athlete Ryan Atkinson, 15, of Alaska. Ryan stole the show at the MTV taping when he moonwalked for Rev. Run.

The group will now help the Special Olympics planning committee prepare for the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. They will promote the "Special Olympics Get Into It" teaching program to help recruit more athletes. "SO Get Into It" encourages unified sports teams that integrate disabled and nondisabled students.

"When I was first chosen for the program, I was nervous. I wasn't sure I wanted to come," said member Kamna Prem, 13, of India. As she got to know her athlete partner, Mira Chandra, 12, she began to feel better. "Mira was the only person I had ever met with a disability. I didn't know how to react."

As she and Mira got to know each other, they became friends. Kamna says her attitude quickly changed toward people with disabilities.

"This has been a great experience for me," she said. "I learned to focus on the people and their abilities and not their disabilities. I want to spread that message."