Goals Are Worth Fighting For


“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee

This spring, Erica Bookout walked across the stage at Radford University to accept her diploma. It was more than just an elegant certificate noting she’d earned her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Education and Psychology. Erica is one of very few athletes in Virginia to complete a regular education college program.

“This is one of the greatest accomplishments of an athlete. It truly is inspiring and amazing,” said Rick Jeffrey, Special Olympics Virginia President.

That doesn’t mean Erica’s college experience was an easy feat. She spent the last five years at Radford as a full-time student. She stayed on campus to experience true college-life, and then in an apartment nearby. Determined to avoid any special treatment from her professors, very few knew about her intellectual disability. She had few accommodations during her time at Radford, and always kept up with her work to stay on track. Erica likened the challenges to a distance race – at times she struggled, but she pushed through until the finish line.

“The most rewarding things for us were certainly her success, perseverance and watching her grow and mature with each new class and experience; good or bad she took a lesson from it,” Erica’s mother, Coreen, said.

While enrolled at Radford, Erica also participated in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, and served as a Global Messenger, where she shared her experiences with Special Olympics and how they have helped her achieve her goals. She took part in a Radford Bible study group, Young Life and took dance classes – all of which were great stress relievers and helped her get through the tougher moments.

“Goals are worth fighting for! They are worth the extra time it takes to reach them and they are worth the hard work it takes to beat the unexpected obstacles,” said Erica.

With this success behind her, the opportunities are endless. She would love to work with children, Coreen said, and her first choice of careers would be an instructional assistant in a public school setting. For now, though, she is taking the summer to relax and volunteer in her local community.