This fall the Special Olympics Howard County (SOHO) soccer program caught the eyes of a team of students in the Leadership U program. Managed by Leadership Howard County, Leadership U empowers high school students to learn by doing in the local community.

After researching organizations that serve people with special needs, one group of students decided to work with Special Olympics Howard County. They coordinated with the organization to assess needs and determine how they could help. The students decided to help the soccer team acquire some much-needed equipment.

“To raise the sufficient funds to buy the equipment, we set up a GoFundMe page and shared it in various social media outlets to our family, friends and community,” said group member Alex Na.

The students exceeded their goal of $500 and could purchase some equipment for other sports, as well. They provided soccer balls, soccer socks, shin guards, volleyballs and basketballs. They also worked with the soccer athletes during one of their practices and attended the end-of-season party to present the equipment.

“Through this, our group learned how to better connect with and befriend athletes with special needs,” Na said. “We learned that those with special needs are just like those without disabilities. They love playing their respective sports, just like how we like to do things that we love to do.”

“Also, we learned that those without special needs should connect and formulate a relationship with those who are disabled since this friendship will break down barriers and allow us to be more accepting to each other and to other groups of people,” he said.

Members of the Leadership U team were Kiarra Burton (Howard), Julia Cargiulo (Mt. Hebron), Rachel McClanahan (Hammond), Katie Zgorski (Notre Dame Prep), Sean Jordan (Long Reach), Evan Nugent (Hammond), Anand Shroff (Atholton) and Alex Na (Centennial). “We’re grateful to the Leadership U students for their involvement and their donations,” said Bob Baker, SOHO director, “And we hope to see some of these kids as volunteers in the future.”

For more information on Special Olympics Howard County, go to; for more information on Leadership U, go to