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.
Emanuel Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org