A Special Volunteering Opportunity: Vanessa Munoz

Volunteerism is a very important aspect of life. It can help you soar over others with college applications and help you be a strong candidate for a job. To one UF student, Vanessa Munoz, it’s more about helping people and seeing the impact her volunteering has on them. This is why she’s a strong advocate for Special Olympics. Her Campus UFL sat down with Vanessa to discuss the organization and the benefits of volunteering in your community.

Her Campus UFL (HC): How did you get involved with the Special Olympics?

Vanessa Munoz (VM): “My story began in Miami where I had the privilege to work and spend my days with students in the Miami Learning Experience, a school that offers education programs for people with developmental disabilities. Students here are able to participate in Special Olympics Florida sports and programs as part of their physical education. In 2016, I was accepted into the University of Florida where I joined Special Olympics Florida as a social media intern within my first week in Gainesville. It was there that I experienced the power of Special Olympics and saw the Unified intramural football and basketball leagues grow in a college town. The University’s Florida RecSports works together with Special Olympics Florida to create Unified intramural teams which consist of partners,who are UF students without intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics Florida athletes, who have intellectual disabilities. This creates an inclusive environment where people with and without intellectual disabilities come together to play and have a good time.”

HC: What has been your favorite part of working with the Special Olympics?

VM: “Being part of something bigger than myself has allowed me to broaden my advocacy and defend the rights of others. The most important factor of working with Special Olympics Florida is to listen to what the athletes need and facilitate resources to help them improve and succeed in every aspect of their life. The essence of my personal mission is to support the athletes of Special Olympics Florida and help enable them to succeed in sports and in life.”

HC: What are some things you wish people knew about the organization?

VM: “Volunteering with Special Olympics Florida has given me a whole new perspective. The organization relies on volunteers for its year-round events. One of the greatest gifts someone can give is their time; whether it be a one-day event or a long-time commitment. Volunteering with Special Olympics Florida will give you a chance to interact with the wonderful athletes and change their lives. Seeing athletes’ reactions to winning medals has thus far been the most cherished moment during my involvement with Special Olympics Florida.”

HC: You’re also a member of Delta Nu Zeta? What’s that like, and where have you volunteered with them?

VM: “Oh yeah! Delta Nu Zeta is one of the service sororities on UF campus and the sisters are required to do 20 hours around the Gainesville community. I’ve volunteered with Ronald McDonald House, Grace Market Place, Alachua County Humane Society.”

HC: What has being a part of the Special Olympics and volunteerism in general taught you?

VM: “I have had the incredible learning experience to witness the different aspects and details that make such great organizations possible. Being part of something bigger than myself has allowed me to broaden my advocacy and defend the rights of others experiencing it first-hand. Volunteering for my community has taught me the importance of community involvement and community inclusion.”