It was a sight to see during lunch break Feb. 8 at San Benito High School as the inaugural Gifted Soccer game matched teams of Life Skills students.
The friendly yet competitive game received an assist from student-athletes from the San Benito High School girls varsity soccer team.
Senior Mariana Magana, a soccer player and peer teacher, spearheaded the lunchtime activity, which came about a few months back after she engaged several Life Skills students in a pickup soccer game. From there, Magana got her teammates involved and they formulated an organized game.
“It’s so much more than starting something new,” Magana said. “It’s about the awareness and inclusion they all deserve.”
Matched up as the Red Team vs. the White Team, the players competed on a grassy area on the north side of campus, attracting a large crowd of student spectators who were on their lunch break. With a DJ playing music, a number of Baler soccer players directed participants during the fast-paced game.
In the inaugural game, the Red edged the White 3-2, with both squads celebrating each goal as the crowd cheered them on.
“Our students, although they are developmentally delayed, have typical wants and needs like any teenager,” said Paulette Cobb, Gilroy director of special education. “They couldn’t play on the soccer team because they are medically fragile or lack the ability, so this allows them to interact with their general education peers and have fun competing.”
Gifted Soccer games will continue on various dates at lunch throughout the spring semester, according to high school staff.
Other inclusive programs at the high school include a Gifted Cheer team, the Baler Buckaroo Rodeo for Life Skills students, the annual Gifted Games Olympic-style competition that alternates between SBHS and Gilroy High School, and the Life Skills Prom and Circle of Friends, in which 250 students participate.