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June 5, 2023

San Benito High School a champion of inclusion

San Benito High School has been a champion for inclusion efforts for the better part of a decade. On April 29, SBHS received national recognition as it received an award from ESPN and the Special Olympics as a Top 5 National Unified Champion Banner School. 

Special Olympics CEO David Solo was at the school’s Academic Rally at Andy Hardin Stadium as the banner was presented in front of the 3,400 student body. For the past four years, San Benito High has been recognized as a Unified Champion School, but the National Banner School and ESPN Top 5 designation are firsts. 

SBHS, which is the only school in Northern California to receive the honors, had to meet 10 national qualifying standards of excellence set by the Special Olympics and the education community. SBHS has been recognized for building a culture of acceptance and inclusion on campus, including Circle of Friends, the renowned inclusive campus club that was created 12 years ago by Casandra Guerrero—the school’s special education program specialist—to promote an environment and culture of inclusion for all students through daily lunch meetings and other activities. 

Circle of Friends and the Gifted Games—an annual event that provides the opportunity for students with disabilities to participate in athletic events in a non-competitive atmosphere—were the forerunners to a school that now has Unified soccer and basketball teams and several gifted sports teams to go along with numerous events.  

San Benito High senior Mia Villegas high-fives Hank the Haybaler during the school’s Academic Rally on April 29. Villegas earned a Top 10 academic honor certificate for her academic excellence. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected].

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