For the second year in a row, San Benito High School was recognized as a Unified Champion School by the Special Olympics of Northern California for the 2018-19 school year and is expected to earn the designation for a third straight time this year in recognition of its ongoing commitment to provide an accepting and inclusive campus for students.
Special Education Program Specialist Casandra Guerrero said the Special Olympics will provide a sticker to add to the Unified Champion banner already on campus, to designate the ongoing recognition for providing inclusive sports for students with special needs and whole-school involvement activities such as Gifted Soccer, Cheer and Basketball, the Gifted Games, Circle of Friends and more.
Guerrero and Life Skills teacher and education specialist Tania Sauer have been asked to speak on a panel at the Special Olympics Professional Development Day on Oct. 21.
SBHS met the criteria for a Unified Champion School by offering one or more inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities (such as Life Skills Prom and peer helpers in classrooms) and school community awareness activities. Circle of Friends annually offers ability awareness presentations to all freshman biology classes as well as hosting Ability Awareness Week in May, and Gifted Cheer performs at games and rallies.
In awarding the school with its initial Unified Champion designation, Cameron Ahmadian, sports manager of the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program, said San Benito High School “has demonstrated everything that Special Olympics Unified Sports aims to accomplish: giving youth the power to be leaders of change in their campus communities.”
In a statement, he said that through its inclusive efforts, San Benito High School “is a campus that gives students of all abilities an equal chance to participate in various campus activities.”
San Benito High School’s Circle of Friends club, which pairs special needs students with general education students so they can practice social skills and feel accepted on campus, earlier this month hosted the inaugural Football Inclusion Night. Fans were encouraged to wear white or purple as the school brings awareness to students of differing abilities and the importance of inclusion. The high school’s Gifted Cheer team performed, and Life Skills students ran onto the field with the varsity team in pregame ceremonies.