For Amber Wadsworth, servant leadership is a lifestyle.
Wadsworth is a lifelong resident of The Hub City. She attended The University of Southern Mississippi in 2002, earning a B.S. in Speech Language Pathology in 2006, and M.S. in Speech Language Pathology in 2008. Currently, she is a speech language pathologist for the Forrest County School District and for Forrest General Hospital, where she diagnoses and treats communication disorders.
However, Wadsworth serves another very important role in the Pine Belt community. She is also the director for the Hub City Region Special Olympics – a role she believes is a “calling” for her.
Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is the largest worldwide sports organization for both children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The organization involves over 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries, and provides year-round training and competitions.
Special Olympics returned to the Hub City region in 2015 after roughly a decade without programming. Wadsworth explained that she has been involved with the organization’s comeback since day one, initially taking on the role of volunteer coordinator.
Wadsworth said he actually has her sister Allison Hynz, who now serves alongside her as assistant director, to thank for her involvement with the organization in the first place. She admitted that she was apprehensive about taking on a leadership role, but her sister was the one that convinced her to do so.
Wadsworth explained that Special Olympics does not only provide an opportunity for these individuals to compete in various sports, but ultimately helps them realize their potential and accomplish something great.
“These individuals have amazing abilities,” she said. “It’s time for them to show off what they can do, and sports is a vessel for them to just that.”
She added that it is perhaps the athletes themselves and the relationships she’s built with them that motivate her to continue in her role with the organization.
“Every time that I get overwhelmed, I’ll just go to a practice,” she explained. “You walk in and you’re met with hugs, smiles, and joyful faces. Not to mention, seeing the fruits of their hard work is inspiring – that’s what it’s all about.”
To let the record state, Wadsworth is no stranger to working with the special needs community, for she has dedicated the majority of her life to enriching the lives of individuals with special needs.
Wadsworth explained that she started volunteering with the Arc and Abbie Rogers Civitan Camp as early as the eighth grade, adding that she volunteered with Abbie Rogers Civitan Camp for the next eight consecutive years. She also was a member of the Luckyday Citizenship Program at Southern Miss.
Collectively, these organizations played a huge part in cultivating her passion for the special needs community.
“Those organizations have done a great job of bringing awareness to people with special needs, especially here in Hattiesburg,” she said. “So, by the time Special Olympics came along, it was just a great fit.”
To say the least, Wadsworth’s involvement with Special Olympics has warranted her the greater understanding of her life’s purpose.
“If I can be the voice for the voiceless and show people that we’re all able to teach each other something, then I’ve done my part in the world,” she said.