State Youth Activation Committee

Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) believes that through sports and sports-related programs, young people can make a difference in their friendships, schools, and local communities.  Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is an initiative that brings youth with and without intellectual disabilities together to make a difference.  Following this belief, SOMT’s Unified Champion Schools program is youth driven, with a State Youth Activation Committee (YAC) made up of young people representing intermediate and secondary schools, as well as colleges, across the country.  Members of the committee work together over the course of the year to develop strategies to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change.

During their time on the committee, YAC members provide leadership to SOMT and Unified Champion Schools by participating in state-level and National events.  They provide advice and counsel on strategies designed to reach other youth, engage in and promote Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools activities in their home environments, communicate the initiatives of Special Olympics and Unified Champion Schools, network with other youth and U.S. Programs on a local, national, and global basis, and review Unified Champion Schools materials for innovation and viability.

SOMT’s State YAC members work together throughout the year to educate, motivate, and activate youth in their communities and advocate for the respect, inclusion, and acceptance of all people, regardless of abilities.  The State YAC uses a wide variety of tools to communicate effectively, such as e-mail, conference calls, social media, state summits (a.k.a. Youth Days), and state rallies.  The goal of the State YAC is to reach out to other youth to help carry out social justice for all people.

To learn more about joining this amazing group of youth leaders, please visit our Unified Champion Schools website.

2018-2019 State Youth Activation Committee Members

Claire Carmody (Hamilton, MT)

I’m Claire Carmody, and I have been an athlete in Special Olympics for four years.  I decided to become a member of the YAC because I want to be a leader in my school and to help other people learn that all kinds of people can do many things. I go to Hamilton High School and I am a sophomore this year. I want to teach people about what it means to have a disability and how to be more kind. I have Williams Syndrome, and I’m ready to share my story with my friends so that they will not be worried about being different. I love Special Olympics because I find a lot of other people like me. Fun facts about me: I love Halloween, jewelry, fancy food, music, and I have 2 brothers, 1 dog, 1 cat, many farm animals, and I want to be a cook when I grow up!

Email Claire: carmodycle@gmail.com

Tanner YAC Photo 2017

Tanner Davis (Helena, MT)

My name is Tanner, or Tan Man, and I’ve spent my life in Helena, MT working hard to be an active participant in Special Olympics basketball, track and field, swimming and bowling. When I’m not serving Lodges Poles at MacKenzie River Pizza Company, I like to spend my time playing the drums, playing on my phone, or playing with my sister’s dog Cooper. I’m excited this is my senior year at Helena High School and am looking forward to going to college next year!

Email me: karen@ddrvcenter.com

Dylan Maharg (Helena, MT)

My name is Dylan and I am a sophomore at Helena High School. I joined the YAC because my good friend, Tanner Davis (see above) recruited me and I wanted to help make a change with inclusion in my community. This is my first year on the State YAC. Fun facts about me: I play basketball and soccer and live on a ranch.

Email me: dmaharg5@gmail.com

Elaina

Elaina Mason (Helena, MT)

My name is Elaina Mason and I participate with the Helena Bengals team. I am a Sophomore at Helena High School. This is my second year as a Youth Activation Committee member and I am excited to make new friends and enjoy new experiences!

Sophie May (Bozeman, MT)

My name is Sophie and I am a senior at Bozeman High School. I got involved with the YAC because I learned about it through Special Olympics and my peers who had done it in the past. I want to help my school become inclusive, and continue to be a better a unified school. I have been a Special Olympics Unified partner in basketball and soccer for the past two years. Fun facts about me: I enjoy playing soccer, skiing, and hiking.

Email me: sophie.may@bsd7student.org

Maizie Mendenhall (Hamilton, MT)

My name is Maizie and I am a Sophomore at Hamilton High School. I was recruited to the State YAC by my friend Claire Carmody (see above). This is my first year and I hope to help increase awareness of differences in my school and bring more recognition to the kids with disabilities and all of the cool things they do in and outside of school every day. Fun facts about me: I know how to sail, I’m a HUGE lover of music, I’m in choir, I play guitar, I’m a sister and I have a dog named Brodie.

Email me: mlm.mendehall@gmail.com

Grace Lawlor (Helena, MT)

My name is Grace and I’m a senior at Helena High School and a Lady Bengal Soccer player and track athlete (Go Bengals!). I’m part of the YAC because the special needs students I have the pleasure of spending time with have been incredibly inspiring and I want to help make a positive difference in their lives. This is my first year as part of the YAC. Fun facts about me: I have two cats, one names Kitty and the other named Goose.

Email me: gracelawlor15@gmail.com

kyle norman

Kyle Norman (Helena, MT)

I am a senior at Capital High School in Helena, MT. I have been involved as a Special Olympics athlete for seven years, competing in basketball, bowling, swimming, and track and field. Outside of Special Olympics, I work part-time at Optimal Sports Physical Therapy and enjoy camping, hiking, four wheeling, and snowmobiling, I hope to attend Carroll College or Helena College after graduation. This is my fourth year as a member of the YAC. I’m excited to be a part of the YAC and spread the word about Special Olympics!

Email Kyle: kylen.yac@gmail.com

Amanda Penley (Helena, MT)

Hi! My name is Amanda Penley and I am a Senior at Capital High School in Helena. I’m thrilled to be part of YAC this year and can’t wait to meet everyone! I first became interested in YAC when my friend Kyle told me all about the fun he was having on the committee. I have been involved in Special Olympics Montana since I moved to Helena in 7th grade, but this year Kyle encouraged me to apply for YAC and I’m so glad I did! In Helena, I’m active with Grandstreet Theatre and Habitat for Humanity. At school, I’m in DECA, Speech and Debate, and Spirit Club. I’m so excited to work as an advocate for such a wonderful program like Special Olympics!

Email Amanda: amandapenley01@gmail.com

Jayson Wanner (Great Falls, MT)

My name is Jayson Wanner and I am a senior at Great Falls High School. I have been a unified partner in Special Olympics for seven years, and have been on the State Youth Activation Committee for four years. Through my volunteer work with Special Olympics, I have strengthened my leadership skills and gained confidence in myself. I look forward to working with the YAC and continuing to participate as a unified partner. When I am not helping with Special Olympics projects, I enjoy camping and fishing.

Email Jayson: jwanner02@yahoo.com

Katelyn Wanner (Great Falls, MT)

My name is Katelyn Wanner and I am a freshman at Great Falls High School. I started Special Olympics as a Unified partner in 2013 and this is my second year on the State Youth Activation Committee. I am on the YAC because I want to be a leader for Great Falls High and get them more involved in Special Olympics.  During my participation in Special Olympics, I have gained confidence in myself and gained leadership skills. Fun fact about me…I love to hunt and go camping.

Email Katelyn: kwanner2003@gmail.com

William West (Bozeman, MT)

I am Billy West from Bozeman, MT and I am a Special Olympics athlete with the Bozeman Hawks. I am a junior at Bozeman High School and am excited that this my second year on the State YAC because it means I will learn new things. As an athlete, I compete in basketball, bowling, floor hockey, skiing, soccer, and swimming. I have made many great friends in Special Olympics and I LOVE Special Olympics because it is the most fantastic thing that has happened in my life.

Email Billy: william.west@bsd7students.org

Jazlyn Young (Helena, MT)

My name is Jazlyn Young. I was born and raised in Helena, Montana and currently, attend Montana State University. This is my second year being involved with the Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics through being a Unified Partner in basketball and then a coach for track. I love trying new things and last year even decided to partake in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge. I am really looking forward to being a part of this amazing group.

Email Jazyln: jazlynj.young@gmail.com

Adult Mentors

Jen Carmody (Hamilton High School – Hamilton, MT) 

My name is Jen and I am an English teacher at Hamilton High School. I wanted to be a part of the YAC to help students in Special Olympics become part of the Hamilton community in meaningful ways. Fun fact: I was a barrel racer!

Email me: carmodyj@hsd3.org

Brian Kessler (Helena High School – Helena, MT)

Born and raised in Helena, MT, I am currently in my 7th year teaching Health and Physical Education at Helena High. I graduated from Montana State University in 2012 and am currently working on my Masters in Educational Leadership from MSU as well. At Helena High, I coach boys basketball and track as well as serve on our MBI, Wellness, and Safety committees. I am excited to serve on the YAC to continue to find meaningful ways to encourage unified participation in all aspects of the school and community setting.

Email me: bkessler@helenschools.org

Terri Norman (Capital High School – Helena, MT) 

I am a business education teacher at Capital High School and a proud mom of a Special Olympics athlete. I have been involved with Special Olympics as a Local Program Coordinator, coach, volunteer, BPA advisor, and YAC adult mentor. I enjoy spending time with family, camping, snowmobiling, kickboxing, and Zumba! I have been an adult mentor on the YAC for four years, and look forward to continuing to work with youth to promote social inclusion and Special Olympics!

Email me: terrin.yac@gmail.com

Kathy Wanner (Great Falls High School – Great Falls, MT) 

I have been part of the YAC for three years and this is my 4th year as co-Local Program Coordinator for the school district’s Great Falls Lions Special Olympics team. I got involved in Special Olympics because of my son Jayson (see above), enjoyed it so much and knew I would too (He was totally right!). My goal is to help others have a better understanding of how amazing all people are. The youth that I work with give me the energy to continue the movement even when it could just be one more thing to do. Fun facts: In my “spare” time I am on a bowling league and have a 154 average, but the goal is always to have FUN!

Email me: kathy.wanner@gfps.k12.mt.us