Jaynellen Kovacevich: My experience on Team Maria

September 13, 2013

Why I Ride with Best Buddies and Team Maria

I am excited about Best Buddies and its accomplishments. Anthony started a program with heart and importance over 20 years ago. His dedication and commitment are notable and inspiring.

I am in awe of the services, opportunities and staff supporting Best Buddies. I ride because I believe in the mission of Best Buddies and all that it has done for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I saw a need for helping students with special needs when I was in college 40 years ago. Early in my college career, I volunteered to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

By the time I was a senior, I directed the UC Davis Student Committee to Aid the Handicapped. My college years at UCD influenced my decision to work with intellectually challenged youth and adults. For the past 25 years I have been dedicated to serving and teaching students with special needs. What I do every day for students is in keeping with the general premise of Best Buddies.

I help students to find their own voice, develop their talents and leadership skills, connect with friends and prepare for living in their communities. Today, as a special education teacher, I do all the testing, educational programming and teaching of students with learning disabilities K-8 in a dual immersion language academy of 1000 students in the Windsor School District in northern California.
In addition, I am busy serving on two non-profit board of directors and coordinating a youth program at the Oakland Zoo. I find time to ride and train each year for Best Buddies as a member of Team Maria. 

My decision to ride with Team Maria goes back to my father.  My father, a prominent democrat and grape grower in California agriculture, knew President John F.  Kennedy. Often, he talked about his support for President Kennedy. He appreciated the work of Eunice and Sargent Shriver and talked about their humanitarian contributions.

When I was choosing a team for Best Buddies, I simply decided to honor the early family connection my father told me about. Team Maria was the perfect choice!

I ride with Team Maria for Best Buddies because I like to think of myself as an agent of change and service.  I believe in Maria’s work inspiring others to make a difference in their lives and community. We all have the ability to be architects designing purposeful and satisfying lives. I like reflecting on how I am making a difference and what I can do each week to live more fully.  I read Maria’s Architects of Change regularly. This spring, when I was dealing with the possibility of having cancer, I decided to link my health concerns to my Best Buddies Hearst Castle Challenge. I took my life seriously and renewed my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. I examined everything I was doing and started on a new course. I got off sugar, wheat, dairy and took exercise to a new level. I am proud to say I met my challenge and lost 35 pounds getting in shape this year and feel wonderful. My tests came back negative.I am healthier than ever! I look forward to riding for my 5th year on Team Maria in 2014.

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