Parent Teacher Magazine Union County Public Schools Sept/Oct 2018 - Page 13

Ninth grade gymnast flips and tumbles her way into history at Special Olympics USA Several years ago, Brielle Mulroy was a Porter Ridge Middle student who was one of the first integrated gymnasts in North Carolina to compete in an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state competition. At the time, the energetic 12- year-old with Down Syndrome was regularly making waves in the local gymnastics community where she repeatedly participated in floor, uneven bars and vaulting competitive events. Now, Brielle is flipping and tumbling her way into history again as one of only two gymnasts from North Carolina to participate in the 2018 Special Olympics USA competition, which was held the week of July 2. This was the first time in 13 years that gymnasts were included as part of Special Olympics USA’s Team North Carolina, and Brielle was the youngest Special Olympics USA athlete in the entire state selected to participate in the national competition. “It’s been a long journey and she has worked extremely hard,” Brielle’s mother Connie said. “This is what she loves to do and I’m very proud of her.” Connie credits much of Brielle’s success to the many number of inclusive activities that she has been able to participate in over the years. When Brielle joined the Perfect Balance Training Center three years ago, it was the first local gymnastics center to offer inclusion on a typical team. And at Porter Ridge Middle, Brielle had the opportunity to join a number of extracurricular activities including cheerleading and musical theatre. These inclusive experiences were critical for the middle school student who craved opportunities to participate in activities alongside her peers and helped foster her love for sports. In fact, if you ask Brielle what she enjoys most, she can’t even decide. “I love everything! I love gymnastics and cheerleading, and I work really hard and practice at it every day,” she said. Porter Ridge Middle Principal Dr. Brian Patience said that Brielle joining these types of inclusive activities not only positively impacted Brielle and her peers, but also helped foster a school wide environment that emphasizes the importance of diversity, respect, acceptance and tolerance. “Brielle always looks for a role model so the typical older kids serve as that role model, and they challenge her,” Connie said, adding that Brielle’s peers have accepted, loved and positively challenged her in a number of ways. “If you put her on a track team and tell her to run, she won’t do well. But if you put her beside someone and tell her it’s a competition, she’ll beat them. She’s very, very competitive.” That competitive spirit served her well at Special Olympics USA, where Brielle walked away earning first place in floor exercise and second place in vaulting, uneven bars and beam and all-around events. “Now that she’s older, I want her to understand that all of her hard work was for this kind of recognition for her,” Connie said. “Brielle really enjoys what she does and she has loved being included in different types of activities over the years. I know that as long as there is a place for her, she’ll continue to do great things in the future.” Parent Teacher Magazine • Sept/Oct 2018 • 11