LaTrelle Cawthon felt like she needed some divine intervention in order to get her into the place she’s in now, dedicating her life to serving special needs kids.
But after having spent six years as an Adaptive Physical Education instructor and Special Olympics coordinator in Newton County, she now says the sheer joy of the job is enough to keep her planted.
Life was churning along just fine for Cawthon as she taught standard PE and coached softball. It was what she believed she was called to do, after getting her bachelor’s degree in physical education at North Georgia.
But right before she had her second child, it started becoming obvious that life was getting ready to change for her in a major way — even beyond giving birth again.
“There was a vacancy in the middle of the year for an APE position, and my principal at the time, Samantha Fuerhy, told me, ‘I think you can do this. I think you’ll be really good with this,’” Cawthon said.
But the assurance of her boss wasn’t enough, at first, to keep the questions from coming.
“I felt called to coaching,” she said. “I loved the connection with the kids. I loved leading the kids. So I kept asking God, ‘Why is this happening? Why are you moving me out of it?’”
What she didn’t know was that everything she’d experienced leading up that point was preparing her to dedicate her life to students with special needs — anything that ranges from physical to mental and developmental challenges.
Now as the coordinator for Newton County Special Olympics, which is part of Region 18 in the state of Georgia’s Special Olympics program — the largest region in the state which consists of Newton, Rockdale, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties — Cawthon helps lead the charge to give special needs students in Newton particularly an optimal experience in sports. Everything from bowling and basketball to the big Special Olympics track and field meet held every spring during the last week of April.
It’s a lot of work that can sometimes get hectic. Cawthon calls it “a good kind of chaos.” But it’s the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work.
“These kids, wow,” Cawthon said. “When you’re having a bad day or when things are rough, you come here and you look at these kids and it just brightens your day. To see them compete. To see their smiles, it’s just amazing.”
What’s just as awesome to her is how invested the Newton County community is in helping Cawthon do what she does. The county’s Special Olympics program is funded by United Way, but because Caution’s salary comes from the Newton County School System, it allows for every cent of the special funding from United Way to go to the kids.
On top of that, Newton County Schools also aids the Special Olympics program by providing the transportation.
“The county provides such a huge blessing to us because they give us transportation,” she said. “They literally keep our program going, and they allow me to do what I do.”
And it’s something Cawthon says she doesn’t mind doing for the foreseeable future.
“To know that I’m right where I need to be, that’s the best feeling in the world,” she said. “When you’re in God’s will and you know it, there’s really nothing like it.”