Atoms win one basketball game against Lee High School

Jamileh Hamadeh, People Editor

The Special Olympics program is an event held for students with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities.
Although the program has many benefits, one of the goals is to help the Special Ed students feel more involved and included at school.
During W4 in Clausen Hall on March 20, the banquet for the Special Olympics was held and invited parents, players and leadership members to be recognized. Leadership students and the special ed students gathered together for the banquet.

The event began with introductions, recognition of the staff, and paper plate awards for all players but there were also awards for the Leadership students that participated. Leadership students were giving all the players their personal awards based on their characteristics. For example, brightest smile or most energetic.
“The event was an awesome experience and if I could join leadership, I would’ve in order to have the opportunity to help our community and meet new people,” senior Alex Huynh said.
“It gives them friends and people to look up to and say ‘hi’ to in the hallway,” Jessica Arias, Special Olympics coach and Leadership teacher said.
For this year’s tournament, there were around 50 students ho participated.
The students involved have the opportunity to play basketball during the winter season and track and field for the spring season.
The Spring ournament is a great opportunity for students to take part in the track events. The track and field events include 100-meter, 400-meter, 1600-meter, 4×400 relay, softball toss, shot put, javelin throw, standing and running long jump.

The basketball tournaments are unified with peer helpers, the Leadership students and the athletes on the court.
Each athlete was assigned a leadership student to work and build a friendship with.
Some of the games and events are held during the Pride Time period and the tournaments are held on the weekends.

The Leadership students include Leadership president senior Vitalina Fuentes, junior Cindy Amaya, and senior Yusuf Muhammad have worked together since the first Special Olympics program which took place last year. They attend every practice with the athletes to help them improve their skills and build good positive relationships with each other.  “I think the program is important because you create a bond with he students and friendships that they might not have had before,” Arias said. “It is really fun to see them enjoying what they’re doing, playing and just being kids.”
The Leadership students also got involved by playing and attending the basketball games and track meets.
“Inclusion is the key,” Multiple Disabilities Teacher and Special Olympics coach Lee said. “I decided to start this Special Olympics program because we did not really have a program in place for our students with disabilities to participate in and to promote inclusion.”

Last year was the first of the Special Olympics program but it is now a tradition for our school.
“I started the Special Olympics program last year which was my first year as a teacher,” Lee said. “This is just my second year as a teacher at Annandale or ever.”
Lee plans to continue coaching the Special Olympics program for the following years to come.
The events are a great experience not only for the athletes, but also for everyone involved.
“My favorite part of this program is being able to give our students the opportunity to participate in sports and activities that they may not normally be able to participate in,” Lee said, “I also love Special Olympics because it promotes inclusion and to include everyone in everything.”
The biggest event for the Special Olympics program was held earlier this year on Jan. 20 at Poe Middle School.
The teams faced off in two games against Robinson High School and Lee High School.
“We won one of our tournaments with a buzzer beat against Lee HS back in our first tournament in January,” Lee said, “Our shooting guard, Robert Williams,was the one to make the shot.”