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This week Michael Holland, a 21 year old high school senior in Georgia Cyber Academy ‘s LIFE program , traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for Special Olympics programming.

Having multiple medical conditions, including autism, kidney disease, and developmental delay, Michael struggled in his youth. However, the education and sports programming that Special Olympics offered helped him improve immensely.

“When he was young he was very shy and very timid,” Ellen Holland, Michael’s mother said. “He tended not to look people in the eye and wouldn’t greet them appropriately. He really didn’t talk until he was six but through Special Olympics he has learned patience and gained huge amounts of self-confidence.”

Being thankful for what Special Olympics did for him, Michael and his mother were more than happy to travel to D.C. to advocate for the organization that helped Michael prosper.

“We were asked by Special Olympics Georgia to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the senators and representatives to advocate for Special Olympic programs,” Ellen said.

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Michael and his mother Ellen (far right) with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (middle) 

The trip turned out to be an incredible experience for both Michael and his mother. They were able to speak with multiple senators, governors, and Special Olympic athletes. Michael also got to meet Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics and Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education.

Not only were the Hollands able to advocate for Special Olympics programming, but they were also able to turn the trip into an educational lesson.

“To be able to talk with the people that we have elected to represent us and them to take the time to listen was an amazing experience,” Ellen said. “It was humbling to see the building where laws are made and stand and think about all of the history that has happened there. He also got to see the White House. There was a small protest and he asked what they were doing so that facilitated a conversation about free speech.”

While their inspirational trip was full of many favorable moments with notable people, Ellen’s favorite aspect was seeing her son make an impact.

“As a parent my favorite was watching him stand and speak for himself,” Ellen said. “It was knowing how far we had come and knowing that Special Olympics made so much of that possible.”

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