Anna Loria | January 26, 2021
Two Brockport Students Serving as Special Olympics U.S. Youth Ambassadors
Courtney Langelotti says she and her best friend, Ella Mohney, are much more alike than they are different.
That’s no question. The teenagers are both Brockport High School graduates, SUNY Brockport freshmen in the childhood inclusive education program, and two of only 30 students in North America serving as U.S. Youth Ambassadors for the Special Olympics.
After a five-month, three-stage application process that began in March of last year, Langelotti and Mohney were chosen to represent New York State together as part of the ambassador program’s 18-student Class of 2020.
The friends have a shared passion for promoting inclusion and played together on the Brockport Unified Basketball team during high school.
“Ella and I were both in the Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee, and we both danced outside of school. Sports weren’t really our thing, but we loved Unified. So, we really clicked and became best friends,” said Langelotti.
Their friendship has grown on the basketball court, in the classroom, on the dance floor (watch the video at the end for Unified prom highlights), and now in front of the camera.
Youth advocates in the ambassador program serve as the faces of Special Olympics across the country. Each week, they spread messages of inclusion by storytelling on social media, engaging in trainings, and helping to create Special Olympics programs. While the role would typically involve travel around the country and in-person events, Langelotti and Mohney are currently focused on virtual efforts. Some of their work can be seen on the Special Olympics North America Facebook and Instagram pages.
“We do videos and come up with stuff for our virtual meetings,” said Mohney.
The pair recently teamed up with Executive Director of Hip Hop Public Health Lori Rose Benson to share health and wellness tips in an episode of the online series “Inside Inclusion.” They’ve even been approached by BOKS, a Reebok-affiliate that promotes children’s wellness, to partner on a large-scale program that will be released in September.
While Langelotti and Mohney will soon become mentors for a pair of youth leaders in the upcoming class of ambassadors, they’re currently mentored by two Class of 2019 members from Texas as well as Director of Program for Special Olympics New York Jessica Dauvergne ’17.
Dauvergne, Langelotti, and Mohney are all involved in the college’s Special Olympics Club led by president Taylor Dillenbeck, a senior studying therapeutic recreation in the Department of Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, and Tourism. The club recently put on a virtual Unified fitness competition, which will be adopted by Nazareth College, as well. The program gave students the opportunity to meet new friends who have varying abilities and exercise with one another for six weeks over Zoom.
Mohney said being active with the Special Olympics means “more fun and less bullying.” She is proud of her efforts in helping others feel included, something she wishes she experienced more growing up, and enjoys making a difference alongside her best friend. Langelotti’s life motto has been “equal opportunities for all” for as long as she can remember.
“Being a part of this program has shown us so many other people around the country who are like us and are doing this because they genuinely love and care about it,” said Langelotti. “I could do all this and never put it on my résumé, because I’m just doing work that I want to do and genuinely love the change I’m making.”
Both Langelotti and Mohney are passionate about working with children and look forward to pursuing careers as educators. Although, Langelotti says she wouldn’t mind working for the Special Olympics long term.
Dauvergne said that, while the teens are humble, they’re leaders of inclusion who were selected to create a movement of change because they’re among the best at what they do.
“It’s a big commitment on top of their freshman year of college,” said Dauvergne, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Brockport. “I have no doubt they’ll carry it with them through life and get to see the impact they’re making on our next generations.”