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Erica Bookout: Small but Fierce

Erica competes in a track event at Summer Games in 2012.
Erica competes in a track event at Summer Games in 2012.

Though she be but small, she is fierce.

She may be small in stature and small in voice, but give her a box and a microphone and she will bring a crowd to its feet. She's Erica Bookout, Special Olympics Virginia's newly named Athlete of the Year. But that's not the big story.

Erica is far more than a standout athlete and Global Messenger speaker. She's also a daughter, a girlfriend and a junior at Radford University, where she is studying Special Education. Yes, you read that correctly. She's a college student. And she's about to get a college degree. A real one. Not an honorary one. How's that for smashing paradigms?

When we asked Erica's mom about her scholastic accomplishments, she attributed her confidence and drive to achieve her goals to the Special Olympics experience. In high school, she decided she wanted a standard diploma like everyone else. So she worked hard and earned her high school degree. Then she took the SAT for college entry, but didn't perform as well as she needed to earn admission to Radford. She was brave in the attempt.

She could have stopped there, but she didn't give up. Her parents told her she needed to score a 16.5 on the ACT. She scored a 17. And she was accepted to Radford. While it might take Erica longer to study and take her tests, she takes the same tests as everyone else. That's it. That's where the special treatment stops.

“My Mom likes to say I am like the turtle from The Tortoise and the Hare. I am slow and steady. I never quit. And I always finish the race,” Erica said. “One important lesson I have learned through Special Olympics is to accept challenges and to always keep working hard toward my goal. I knew it would not be easy for me as a college student but I have worked hard, set goals and I’m proud of what I have accomplished.”

Erica, you’re right. Extra time. Hard work. Defying expectations. Sounds like an Olympics success story to us!

Thanks to Patriot Productions for capturing our Annual Awards Luncheon on video! See Erica accept her award in the video below, starting at 42:57: