Special Olympics Team Goes to Educational Summit

First+Lady+Michelle+Obama+declares+the+2015+Special+Olympics+World+Games+officially+open+during+the+opening+ceremony+at+the+Los+Angeles+Memorial+Coliseum%2C+Saturday%2C+July+25%2C+2015%2C+in+Los+Angeles.
First Lady Michelle Obama declares the 2015 Special Olympics World Games officially open during the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Los Angeles.

First Lady Michelle Obama declares the 2015 Special Olympics World Games officially open during the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Los Angeles.

AP

AP

First Lady Michelle Obama declares the 2015 Special Olympics World Games officially open during the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Los Angeles.

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Kids from around the state came to an event that was held on the 16th of November. A select few of our own current Obama students attended this event called the ESPN Special Olympics Summit. Our students got to go to Slippery Rock University after an amazing time of being an hour late to the event. Heads up, being early is the best thing in the world: take our word for it! Our fellow students Aubree Peterson-Spanard, Kayla Page, Janae Bandy, and Makyya Jones were the select few to attend this event.

Once we got there, we were led to a room of other students from other districts. It was pretty cool, as we learned to communicate with others and how to establish a system of how to start a club, or any activity for that matter. We held elections for positions, such as secretary (which both of us ran for, but Kayla won by an anonymous, yet surely unanimous vote), as well as vice president and president positions for both special-ed and general-ed members. You see, members of each Special Olympics Unified club are usually divided into two “categories,” which are special-education and general-education. Most people are in general-ed, with standard (or advanced) classes and a regular curriculum. Meanwhile, students in special-ed have “special needs”, such as learning how to read and write at older ages, because they have some kind of disability that hinders their abilities to learn at the same pace as general-ed students.

Anyway, after we held elections, with the help of a couple supervisors, we began to discuss planning an event that would potentially spread the word about the club. Everyone had an idea to give, and our “lovely secretary,” as everyone referred to her, wrote down notes for everyone to look at (she has nice handwriting, you know!). Our group eventually decided to plan a party, and we talked about who would make posters/invitations, where we would get the food, etc. It turns out that, unlike our currently small club here at Obama that only participates in track and field events, other clubs participate in activities such as cooking, bocci, swimming, golf, and so many more!

Afterwards, we went to lunch, where we talked to some of the supervisors, who were also students at the university, and had a great time getting to know them. It was a moment where we were able to learn what we had in common, sharing some great laughs all while enjoying good food. When lunch was soon over, the students were separated into smaller groups for a session. The person in charge of our group was named Ali and she was pretty cool. We started off with introducing ourselves and trying to find words to describe our personalities. Then we learned the importance of three concepts: collaboration, student leadership, and inclusion. These ideas make communication better and easier within any sort of club or group. Some activities we played to work on the skills of communication and leadership. For example, the first activity had one student who had to line the rest of the group in order by their birthdays. But here the catch: no one was allowed to speak except for the one individual. This turned out to be a success, for we did better than previous groups.

The next activity was called the “human knot”. This activity had the students grab a hand of another who was not next to them. One student was able to stay out of the human knot to direct and try to untangle the group. Again, no one was allowed to talk. Although we were not fully successful in “untying” ourselves , we still learned more of the importance of communication and leadership. Unfortunately, we had to leave in order to arrive back at the school before dismissal. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. It was fun to talk to people from other schools and imagine getting so many others involved with this organization. Plus, we were able to get free stuff on our way home!

Speaking of involving others, and since we’re a relatively new club, we are always happy to get new members. While talking to the other groups from across the state, we learned that some of them have over 200 members; meanwhile we have a measly number of 8 as of November 20th. So here’s some info if you’re interested in joining us (if not, still read this next part so that you can understand what exactly it is we do as a club/team).

We participate in the Track and Field events against about seven other schools in the Pittsburgh Public School district. Each member has to sign up for one track race and one field event, which include javelin throwing, long jump, and shot-put throwing. Last year, we won fourth place as a collective team. If you’re going to be playing a spring sport besides our track team, don’t worry about your schedules clashing. We have about two or three practices at the beginning of the season, and from there we simply attend the meets every week (there are usually four of them, including the first session for time trials). In our club, we only have two general-ed members (yours truly!), but we need more. We can’t participate in every event, which leaves too many of our special-ed members without a partner to compete with. Partners partake in the events of their choice, and are assigned to a special-ed teammate competing in the same event. We race individually, but having a someone by your side for support is always motivating.

Our team learned so much from the Special Olympics Summit. When we meet in the spring for our next season, we will hold elections for in-club positions, as well as talk about what we can do to spread awareness of the team. Until this year, the school didn’t acknowledge us as an actual sports team; there were no announcements made about our events, nor were we ever mentioned at pep rallies. But that’s all about to change! Come join us, and be a part of our awesome club (you won’t regret it, we promise!). The main reason sports exist is to have fun (and try to win), take risks, be daring, and break limits you never knew you had!

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Special Olympics Team Goes to Educational Summit