By: Staff Writers Anthony Chen and Tanushri Sundar
On May 6, students in MSJ’s Special Education program participated in the third and final Mission Valley Special Education Local Plan Area Special Olympics of the year.
The Special Olympics was held at James Logan High School’s track and had track-and-field events. From MSJ, the Moderate-Severe, Intensive Instruction, and Moderate classes competed, and students from elementary, junior high, and high schools in FUSD, Hayward Unified School District, New Haven Unified School District, and Newark Unified School District competed as well. Student volunteers from James Logan High School organized and prepared for the event and helped the participating students in their events by teaching them how to jump, throw, and aim.
The event began with an opening ceremony, in which each school carried a hand-drawn banner and marched around the track to the beat of a percussion ensemble. The students grouped off on the field to watch a torch run, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and listened to a Special Education student sing the national anthem. The opening ceremony concluded with a motivational speech from James Logan Alumnus Kevin Craddock, who competed in the NCAA in hurdling.
After the opening ceremony, students participated in unified relay races, which had competitors from every school, ambulatory races for students in wheelchairs, 100- and 50-meter dashes for high school and junior high students, and 50- and 25-meter dashes for elementary school students. Other events included standing long jump, shot put, and javelin throw, the latter two done with soft balls and arrows respectively. Partway into the events, it began to rain and the participants moved into Logan’s main gym, the Pavilion. Students participated in races around the gym, and towards the end of the competition, the high school mascots ran a mascot race in their uniforms.
To prepare for the Special Olympics, Moderate-Severe Class Teacher Sujata Singh took her students on long walks around the community and practiced track and field with them during PE to get them running and walking. Every day, Singh led the students through 25 minutes of yoga stretches and breathing exercises. Because this was their third Olympic games of the year, the students were accustomed to the atmosphere. Singh said, “[MSJ] was, this time, very much assimilated. They did not feel so overwhelmed with the crowd because by now they know the schedule and the rules and their friends. So they did pretty well, and I can see them coming up by themselves, running the race.” During the awards ceremony, each participant won a ribbon. “It’s all about participating, not winning. And each one of [the students] participated,” Singh said.