Above, junior Lucy Meyer proudly holds one of two championship trophies won by Hamilton High School’s Unified Sports basketball team.
Hamilton High junior Lucy Meyer has dedicated her life to creating a world of inclusiveness, where everyone supports and respects one another. Born with cerebral palsy, Lucy has overcome her own challenges to become a globally prominent youth advocate for children with disabilities.
“I want a world with inclusion and acceptance,” she said. “A world where every child – whether or not they have special needs – has the chance to have the kind of life I have. I have a beautiful and loving family, tons of friends and a school where everyone helps and supports each other, and everyone is treated the same.”
Lucy’s gregarious spirit, positive nature and industriousness led to her selection as the first official spokesperson for UNICEF USA’s partnership with the Special Olympics. She met twice with then-President Barack Obama, and has also addressed the United Nations, conversed with dozens of U.S. senators and promoted a culture of inclusion in speeches at schools across the nation.
“Meeting the president was awesome,” Lucy said. “He told me he was really proud of me and that the work I am doing is really important. I think what I liked best was the second time I met him he remembered exactly who I was and gave me a big hug.”
In addition to her advocacy, Lucy has also helped raise more than $1 million for the UNICEF/Special Olympics partnership over the last two years, and several million more for UNICEF since 2013.
Her role as spokesperson also allows her to serve as an ambassador for the program. She has traveled to Jamaica and Brazil and has plans to visit additional countries in the near future, where she hopes to spread awareness of challenges and solutions concerning children with disabilities and advocate for their rights.
“The kids in other countries are always so loving and so sweet,” she said. “Even though we are different, with different kinds of classrooms and schools, we are all really the same and we want the same thing – a home where we are accepted, included and can be anything we want to be.”
Despite her hectic schedule, Lucy’s focus is always at home.
“I have a wonderful family at home, and I have a wonderful family here at school,” she said. “It’s always been that way since first grade. I have a lot of friends, and the teachers and students here have my back. It’s really cool.”
Lucy attended Richland Elementary School and Webster Middle School before matriculating to Hamilton.
“I love Hamilton High, because it’s inclusive,” she said. “There are thousands of students here, and even though we have so many differences, we are all equal and we’re all the same. People don’t see me as someone with a disability here. They see me as Lucy.”
A five-time gold medalist in the Special Olympics, Lucy is active in swimming, basketball, softball and soccer. She is a regular participant in Unified Sports, which enables children with and without disabilities to compete together on the same teams.
She is also the president of Hamilton’s chapter of Best Buddies, an international program dedicated to ending isolation among people with disabilities.
“We had the program at Webster, and I loved it,” she said. “So when I came here to Hamilton, I helped bring the program here. Kids with disabilities get to spend time and hang out with other kids and adults, have lunch together, talk about life. It’s wonderful.”
Hamilton principal Brenda Pensamiento says Lucy embodies the kind of culture she and her team have worked to build at the school.
“Lucy exhibits qualities like strength, perseverance and overcoming adversity,” she said. “These are qualities we work to build in all of our students, whether or not they have disabilities. She helps us promote a culture of inclusion at Hamilton. She is a great asset to our school.”
Lucy’s mother, Jamie Meyer, applauds L.A. Unified for providing the support her daughter needs to live life as a happy teenager.
“Through its special needs programs, wonderful special education teachers and helpers, the District makes it possible for Lucy to feel like any other student,” she said. “She views Hamilton as ‘her’ school, just like the other students do. She doesn’t feel like an outsider. She feels like she belongs. This is her home.”
Associate Superintendent Beth Kauffman, who heads L.A. Unified’s Division of Special Education, says it is students like Lucy that boost the success of the District’s programs.
“Lucy embodies the spirit and accomplishments that we strive to bring out in all of our students with disabilities in L.A. Unified,” she said. “We endeavor to have all students with disabilities in inclusive settings and promote student participation in our Special Olympics and Unified Games sports programs.”
Among Lucy’s fans is Special Olympics chairman and special education advocate Timothy Shriver.
“Lucy is exactly what the world needs to promote understanding and respect for all people with disabilities.“ he said. “It’s not going to be a politician or a CEO who teaches us this lesson. It’s going to be Lucy.”