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Special Olympics 2019

Internships with purpose at Special Olympics Michigan

CMU students gain valuable career experience while promoting social inclusion

Contact: Ari Harris


The Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games is one of the largest events on Central Michigan University's campus each year, and CMU students play a key role in making it happen.

Kellie Murphy, manager of sports and wellness at Special Olympics Michigan, said event organizers managed more than 3,000 athletes and coaches, more than 600 volunteers, thousands of spectators and supporters, multiple event sites, and what felt like millions of little logistical details.

Scenes from the games
  • Thousands of athletes, spectators, coaches and volunteers filled campus May 30-June 1 for the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games. See the Facebook gallery.
  • CMU leadership training helps Michigan high schoolers present Unified Sports Day.


To keep everything running smoothly behind the scenes, Murphy relied heavily on CMU student interns and volunteers. They had a wide range of tasks including researching, recruiting, training and communicating with volunteers; planning and running 12-week fitness programs; setup and teardown during events; and much more.

"My interns are given projects that they are 100% responsible for, and they are learning things they need to know for their future careers, such as how to plan an event from start to finish, how to prioritize tasks, and how to work in a fast-paced and stressful environment," she said.

For students who are passionate about diversity and inclusion, working with Special Olympics Michigan was the perfect opportunity to build professional skills while making a difference for others. Here's a look at just a few of the CMU students who worked hard to create a great experience for athletes, coaches and families this year.

Fit, healthy and happy

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"Everyone in the office has so much passion and so much love for the athletes. I know I am making a difference when I'm there."

Who: Quinn Keilen, senior majoring in clinical exercise science.

What: Keilen assisted with planning and leading the Healthy Athletes program, meeting one-on-one with athletes to talk about wellness and providing free health screenings to Special Olympics Michigan athletes during the games. 

Empowering younger leaders

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"Everyone has the ability to be a leader, regardless of their label or identity. These students have the ability to create real change."

Who: Tessa Hollister, senior majoring in recreation with an event management concentration and minoring in child development and leadership.

What: Hollister encouraged high school students to realize their inner leader and positively impact their communities through the Unified Sports Leadership Launch program.

Small tasks make big events possible

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"Every job matters here. Small tasks lead to big tasks. Without that work, the big summer games would not be possible."

Who: Carlee Harrington, senior majoring in sport management.

What: Harrington helped with behind-the-scenes operations such as assembling mailings; communicating with coaches, athletes and participants; and day-of-event logistics. 

Getting along swimmingly

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"I love working with all the athletes and seeing the people who return each year. Many of the older athletes and the coaches have watched me grow up, and I've grown a bond with them." 

Who: Savannah Drain, senior majoring in special education.

What: Drain is a 16-year veteran volunteer who worked with swimmers to ensure aquatic events ran smoothly and on time.

CMU University Communications interns Sophie Bates, Annika Clemens, Shiyao Liu and Rachael Thomas assisted with this story.


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