By Staff Writer Lily Oh
As students energetically propelled the ball into the goal, cheers of encouragement and excitement resounded through the air.
On Friday, November 1, 20 MSJ special education students participated in the Special Olympics Soccer event at American High School. The students competed in divisions B and C, to which they were assigned based on their abilities. Special Education Teacher Tai Chung’s 10 students — Seniors David Arce and Jacob Castanares; Juniors Eleandrei Palisoc, Colin Ly, and Thomas Pham; Sophomores Aamir Bijli, Roland Chiang, Anna Shofman, and Felix Xu; and Freshman Sarah Zaman — competed in division C, in which participants play with help from staff on the field. Special Education Teacher Elyse Rynhoud’s 10 students — Senior Marcus Zachary Arquiza; Junior Alex Garcia; Sophomores Lynette Feng and Arnav Parekh; and Freshmen Gabriel Herrera Blaylock, Briana Cortez Campos, Aliakbar Jumahan, Aliazghar Jumahan, Aaron Zamora, and Armando Zamora — competed in division B, in which participants play without assistance from staff.
Both teams competed in three games under their respective divisions. As Chung’s students competed in division C, Chung was on the field with them, guiding them on where to pass and kick the ball throughout the match. Chung’s class scored seven goals in total, with five of those goals coming from Zaman; the other two goals were scored by Arce and Castanares. Unfortunately, they lost all three matches, but Chung was pleased with his class’s performance. “We were more engaged this year than previous years — more active, and more shots in the goal…. [I was] very proud,” he said.
Rynhoud’s class also performed outstandingly in their matches. “We won or tied every game. It was awesome. [The students] were very enthusiastic, and participated in the events wholeheartedly. They had great sportsmanship, and they were very excited about the games …They scored a lot of points together and had a lot of fun,” Rynhoud said.
Special Olympics Soccer is one of many sports competitions held by Special Olympics Northern California through the Schools Partnership Program, which aims to bring general and special education students together through events like sports tournaments. According to the Special Olympics Northern California website, through activities like the Special Olympics Soccer event, the organization strives to develop school communities that promote acceptance, inclusion, and respect for all students alike.
In addition to uniting the community, the event benefits its participants beyond the field. Rynhoud said, “[The event] builds teamwork … It also builds sportsmanship, and there are a lot of social skills involved in sports. [The students] feel good. It’s a way to increase their self esteem. Moreover, it’s a chance for them to see a lot of their old friends and teachers from other schools … It gives an opportunity for reunion.”
Photos Courtesy FUSD