Today we’d like to introduce you to Austin Rector.
Hi Austin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Growing up, I was bullied often. I struggled with my weight for most of my childhood and had to attend speech class throughout elementary school.
Luckily, I also had a group of friends growing up that couldn’t care less about the way I spoke or how much I weighed. We would laugh, play games, read books, and play sports. I had so much fun with my new friends that I’d often go to their classroom during recess to avoid the playground. At the time, I didn’t understand why their class was in a different area of the school than mine.
Who would have known the friends I made in speech class, back in elementary school so many years ago, would teach me how to see people for just exactly what they are… people. The time I spent with my friends that were in special education, brought me so much joy during those tough times of harassment and ridicule, and continues to bring so much joy to my life now that I am an adult.
I spent my high school years working closely with organizations that promote awareness for individuals with IDD. I lead an anti-bullying initiative complete with an assembly, I was the Chapter President of my high school’s Buddies Chapter for three years, leading our group to become the largest club on campus, and later recognized as the “Best Chapter” for several years in a row.
I had the opportunity to travel the world with Special Olympics Arizona to help spread awareness, start and implement programs for individuals with IDD, and started coaching Special Olympics Sports through the City of Chandler’s Therapeutic Recreation Department while I was in high school.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Life isn’t always easy and I think we all face some sort of adversity in our lives along the way. I spent a lot of my younger years being picked on.
We think as we become adults everything will magically change, but there are always going to be people that don’t understand your heart, have something negative to say, tell you “you can’t”, or pass judgment. I’ve learned you can’t make everyone happy. We can either choose to give up when we are faced with challenges, or we can work hard for what we believe in.
Anything worth doing in life can bring struggles and negativity. We can choose to focus on the negatives or focus on the positives. Thankfully, I found a group of people early on in my life that taught me the power of positivity!
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I started volunteering for the City’s Therapeutic Recreation Department when I was a freshman in high school.
It was my first job when I turned 16, and many years later I still enjoy coaching their Special Olympics Sports, and programs. I found a love of fitness after losing over 50 pounds and decided to become a Certified Personal Trainer shortly after high school, and I am currently pursuing a degree in the medical field.
It has always been important to me that people are seen for their awesome, unique personalities and are treated as equal and important members of our society. That passion, along with knowing what it feels like to be picked on, is where the idea for AR Inclusion was formed.
AR inclusion is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) social, health and wellness organization that strives to create a more inclusive society for everyone by promoting acceptance, respect, and inclusion for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and their friends, and families.
AR Inclusion is a labor of love; we are a 100% volunteer-based organization, and all donations go directly to our programs.
Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
AR inclusion (Acceptance, Respect, and Inclusion) is my way of giving back to a group of people that really helped guide me and mold me into the person I am today. There are so many people along the way that have touched my life.
The teachers that supported me, the high school principal that believed in me and my ideas, the organization mentors that lead the way and allowed my voice to be heard, my first and current boss at the city that allow me to do what I love. The list goes on and on, but there are a few people in particular that have had a huge impact on my life.
My mom has supported me and encouraged me throughout my entire life. She is always there to offer a positive outlook when things get tough. She always encourages me and supports my crazy ideas. When others tell me things aren’t possible she is there to tell me I can do anything I put my mind to and truly believes in me.
She is the co-founder of AR Inclusion and works tirelessly to help me organize and implement ideas. I am proud to be a momma’s boy LOL.
When I first started working for the city programs I met a kid named Nic. He was hilarious. He only liked eating orange foods.. orange Powerade not Gatorade, and trust me I tested him to see if he could really tell the difference haha… goldfish crackers, oranges, pretzels, etc. Nic always made me laugh, he taught me not to take myself too seriously, which I tend to do at times.
He was born with Down Syndrome and his ability to make people smile was nothing short of amazing. My buddy Nic passed away shortly after his 13th birthday. He was one of the coolest kids I ever knew. We always think we have time to do the things we want to do, but he taught me how life can literally change in an instant.
I am sad he never got to see AR Inclusion as he was a huge reason why I wanted to start the organization in the first place, and he is the reason why I finally found the time to get it started. You never know when the time will run out.
AR inclusion is possible because of our amazing participants and volunteers! The sense of community at our events is due largely in part to all the people involved. The time given, the donations received, the passion to make a change… that can’t be done individually.
It is done when a group of like-minded people come together for a common goal. Acceptance, Respect, and Inclusion #ItsAlwaysPossible
- Email: Austin@arinclusion.com
- Website: arinclusion.com
- Instagram: @ar_inclusion
- Facebook: AR Inclusion
- Youtube: AR Inclusion