By: Staff Writer Tanushri Sundar
Junior high and high school students from FUSD, New Haven Unified School District, and Newark Unified School District participated in the third year of the Special Olympics at American High School on November 13. The Special Olympics are sports tournaments that are held three times a year, and students participate in either basketball, soccer, or track and field activities. Teams of special needs students of all skill levels played soccer matches at the first tournament of the year.
Students practiced for six weeks before the event, and three teams represented MSJ. Students in Special Education Teacher Ronalyn Lumain’s class represented MSJ by wearing “Green Team” T-shirts. Special Education Teacher Tai Chung’s students wore green jerseys, and Special Education Teacher Sujata Singh’s students wore maroon sweaters with their names and numbers written on the back.
After lively opening ceremonies, organized by the Leadership class of American High School, the games began. Chung’s class was the first MSJ team to play. They faced off against Kennedy in a quick fifteen minute match. Singh’s class played American in MSJ’s second game, and the game began with American’s team scoring goal after goal. However, Sophomore Jessie Ramirez made a breakthrough halfway through the game, scoring MSJ’s first goal. Teams took quick water and snack breaks as other schools took to the fields. Lumain’s class played victoriously against Kennedy, but for most games, the score was loosely kept, as the focus was on students’ enjoyment.
Games continued throughout the day with upbeat music keeping the participants and spectators energetic. General education students from all schools came to witness the event and cheer on their peers, as did paraeducators, teachers, and faculty. American’s Leadership students and student-athletes ran the event under the guidance of Bria Shepherd, an Adapted P.E. Teacher for FUSD who works with students with special needs. Shepherd said of the event, “A lot of the students out here, they don’t get to play high school sports. This is their high school sport. You know, if you really wanted to play a sport and go out for soccer but you couldn’t due to your ability level…this is a venue for them to be able to play.”
When asked what she hoped to see by the end of the day, Shepherd said, “Lots of smiles, lots of high-fives, and everyone having a good time.” As the games came to a close, American’s Leadership students passed out prizes to the participants. An awards ceremony congratulated all of the students, and there were smiles and high-fives all around.
Photo Credits: www.ocps.net