Photo Courtesy Special Olympics
"I like to help people and I love kids," the "American Idol" runner-up tells The Boot. "So I always said that if I never made it in the music business, I wanted to be a pediatrician or a special-needs teacher. I love those kids in my school, they're my babies! I've gone to the Special Olympics in our region every year since sixth grade."
Lauren is now being recognized for her work with special needs kids, as Special Olympics Project UNIFY has announced her as an Ambassador for the program's North American chapter. The teen star's honor was given during the 23rd annual National Service-Learning Conference in Minneapolis, Minn.
Lauren is pictured above with Special Olympic athlete Tanealya Hueth (left) and National Youth Activation Committee member Danielle Liebl (right). In the photo below, she's surrounded by a group of Special Olympics athletes and advocates at the Minneapolis conference.
Photo Courtesy of Special Olympics
Project UNIFY aims to promote acceptance and respect for students with intellectual disabilities, as well as to enhance their lives through educational and sports activities, which also include youth without disabilities. Lauren will help spread the program's message of inclusion and try to recruit more people to get involved.
"I am honored to be asked to be an Ambassador for Special Olympics. I have been involved with the local chapter in my hometown since I was in 6th grade," she says. "There is nothing that makes me happier or inspires me more than spending time with the athletes ... I have made friends for life and they did their part to support me throughout my run on 'American Idol.' Now, it is my turn to support them and help bring awareness to this wonderful organization."
Lauren is, in fact, so dedicated to her special needs friends that she wrote a shout-out to them on the liner notes of her debut album, Wildflower.