This profile is part of a mini-series about the relationships between Butler University and Special Olympics Indiana. Check out our main story to learn about how these organizations work together toward their missions of inclusion and advocacy, then keep reading below to see an example of how that connection has an impact on Butler students.
One recent Special Education alumna has been watching the Special Olympics presence at Butler University grow since she first stepped on campus. Now, she’s helping lead the charge.
When Jillian Moss ’20 saw the table for Butler Ambassadors for Special Olympics (BASO) during Block Party, the student organization’s work immediately appealed to her interest in special education and working with people who have disabilities. She joined the hospitality committee as a first-year, then switched to leading the Olympic Liaison committee, serving as the point person for collaborating with the Washington Township Special Olympics chapter to plan shared programming. She also worked to promote inclusivity across campus, and she spent her senior year in charge of the Polar Plunge and Spring Sports fundraising events.
By the time Moss began volunteering for the biannual Athlete Leadership University program as part of a Special Education class, she’d fallen in love. “The athletes find joy in the littlest things, and I think that’s something a lot of us forget to do,” she says. “If you go to a Special Olympics event, you are always going to leave inspired. Helping foster those relationships and create valuable experiences—it’s hard not to fall in love with it.”
So, Moss looked for more ways to get involved. She served as a development intern with Special Olympics Indiana in summer 2019, assisting with fundraising and event planning. She spent much of her time collaborating with donors, sponsors, and vendors—building relationships both inside and outside the organization.
When the internship ended, Moss didn’t leave. She stayed on to help coordinate Athlete Leadership University from the SOIN side of things, and since graduation, she has served as the program’s Assistant Director on a volunteer basis.
“A lot of people just focus on the sports aspect of Special Olympics, and obviously that plays a huge role, but there is this whole other side through programs like Athlete Leadership that is really about helping athletes develop into well-rounded individuals and leaders,” Moss says. “Being able to see the program grow over the last few years, both from the SOIN side and from Butler’s side—with a lot more students getting hooked on this kind of work—that’s exactly what we want. We are also seeing the inclusion on campus grow, and seeing more athletes register for ALU.”
Moss says the biggest goal of ALU is to empower those athletes and help them discover what leadership means to them. And she says being involved with Special Olympics has helped her grow, too.
“I would not be where I am with Special Olympics without the opportunities Butler provided me,” she says. “The College of Education, and especially the Special Education program, does a really good job of interacting appropriately with people with disabilities. I have learned so much about the importance of inclusion, and I think I have become a much better person because of my involvement with Special Olympics. It’s something I wish everybody could do.”