Jasmine Miles grew up like so many others with intellectual disabilities. Children at school would treat her differently without ever getting to know her, while the rest of the children were treated with more respect, no questions asked.
Now 27 years old, Jasmine thinks back and has just one question: Why?
“It’s like why are you going to treat others differently when we’re just the same?” Jasmine wondered. “We’re all human beings. Our blood runs the same, our hearts beat the same. So why do we need to be treated differently than others?”
And that’s why she is grateful for her involvement with Special Olympics Southern California.
A resident of Orcutt, Jasmine competes on the Northern Santa Barbara County softball team. The athletes were among the various Special Olympics Team USA representatives at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles.
Among the lessons SOSC teaches its athletes and the public are the ideas of acceptance and inclusion. Jasmine’s softball team put those values to work every day, as she was one of two females on the team along with Cherice Medina on the 15-person roster. There are no lines drawn based on gender, race or any other differences with her teammates.
“We’re brothers and sisters. Family,” Jasmine said.
Jasmine is the same person on and off the field. From a distance, her smile stands out. There’s plenty of personality to go with it, including the nickname “Peanut” that her mother bestowed upon her when she was born.
There’s no real backstory to the moniker, just another fun quirk to a person who will answer to either name. Her coaches even use the nickname, as did the public address announcer Ross Porter over the speakers at World Games. Like an intellectual disability, it’s a part of who Jasmine is and she doesn’t think twice about it.
And her coaches don’t think twice about using her as a “go-to” leader.
“I use her a lot,” said softball coach Tiffany Pricer. “She’s one of my main athletes that helps me out and gets everyone organized. I love it, she’s great.”
Win or lose, Jasmine steps off the field with the same enthusiasm, the same positive energy.
And, yes, the same smile. All she has to do is think about what SOSC has done for her life.
“I meet new friends every day,” Jasmine said. “I love smiling as you can tell, so it just brightens my day every day.”