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Haylie Wrubel: Helping Current and Future Youth to Build a Truly Inclusive World

Haylie Wrubel: Helping Current and Future Youth to Build a Truly Inclusive World

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today I’m excited to cruise around with Haylie Wrubel, the senior director of Global Education Strategy and Programming with the Special Olympics International. Are you ready to be inspired?

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Haylie! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your work with the Special Olympics?

Haylie: Thanks for inviting me, Spiffy! The Special Olympics is using the power of sport to build friendship, understanding, and inclusion between young people with and without intellectual disabilities. We work with schools around the world to start Unified Sports teams, which are teams made up of students with and without disabilities, who then compete together. In addition to sports, the Special Olympics also promotes programming that focuses on youth leadership and opportunities to engage the entire school population. Through these activities, social inclusion blooms and breaks down the divides. The Special Olympics believes that physical inclusion is not enough. Full inclusion in education requires a commitment to social inclusion.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Haylie: I strongly believe in the power of youth to change our world. If given the right tools and freedom, youth innovation can create a radically different world. A world I want to be a part of, a world that first looks to unite and not divide, a world that looks to include instead of exclude, a world that has a place at the table for everyone. That is a world I want to assist our young people in building. And I strongly believe that quality and equitable education is the answer. If young people can learn these skill sets, if they can learn to include from a young age, they will become businessmen and women who hire for diversity, politicians that write policies focused on inclusion, parents who raise the next generation.

Spiffy: That’s a world I want to be a part of, as well, Haylie! Can you further elaborate on the impact of your work?

Haylie: Special Olympics programming in schools focuses on building a social infrastructure of inclusion. While it is not a curriculum in schools, it does provide lessons and learning opportunities for students to come together and learn from each other. In these schools, we have seen a spirit of inclusion take root, offering a welcome alternative to the usual schoolyard culture of cliquey isolation and casual cruelty. The new norms are infused throughout the wider community, with peers inspiring peers to think and act in a better way—all with inclusive minds.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or the organization. What impact does that make on your community?

Haylie: Recently, on the UN day of Education, the Special Olympics called on governments around the world to allocate 3% of education funding to high-quality, evidence-based inclusionary practices that fully integrate students with intellectual disabilities into school communities. According to the United Nations, most member countries of the CRPD are not on track to ensure an “inclusive and equitable quality education” for all by 2030. Through an investment in the transformative power of social inclusion in schools, governments can make meaningful progress on implementation of the UN-CRPD and support the full achievement of the SDGs on behalf of one of the most marginalized demographics in the world today.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Haylie: Unified sports and activities allow classmates to see one another as capable and gifted—as friends and equals. A good teacher can tell you this. But a good teammate can prove it. Children who learn to play together can learn, grow, and ultimately live together.

Spiffy: Beautifully said! Thanks for speaking with me today, Haylie—it’s been an honor!

Haylie Wrubel is the Senior Director of Global Education Strategy and Programming at Special Olympics International. In her role, Haylie oversees the growth and expansion of Special Olympics programming in over 152 countries around the world. (Nominated by David Evangelista at the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 13, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.