Central Unified School District had its first taste of Special Olympics in its schools when Central High School – East Campus hosted a Unified volleyball competition. Everything about it – from the pre-planning to the camaraderie to the volleyball itself – was an absolute win! If you’re curious about Unified play, click here to learn more.
A total of 14 teams competed – some unified, some solely comprised of Special Olympics student-athletes. Bullard, Central – East Campus, Edison, McLane, Roosevelt and Sunnyside high schools along with Wawona Middle School all participated. In a round-robin style tournament, the teams played 4-5 games, which lasted for approximately 20 minutes each. The schools pulled general education Unified partners from different places – volleyball players, PE students, peer counselors or leadership students. One team even had a teacher’s aide play.
Fresno’s Unique Commitment
Physical activity and Special Olympics are so engrained in Fresno schools with a deep history. For students receiving special education services in Clovis and Fresno school districts, exercise and sometimes Special Olympics practices are written into their IEP – or an individual education program designed to help students with disabilities reach education goals. Many of our Special Olympics students-athletes are able to practice their sports during their PE time. The Schools Partnership Program is training and educating for life through sports, and the IEPs reflect the value of just that.
Even beyond that, Fresno Unified, which is the fourth largest district in California, foots the bill for Schools Partnership Program transportation costs. Take the upcoming SPP track & field competition for example. We have more than 700 student-athletes signed up and Fresno Unified is paying for the many buses required. Taking on that very large financial commitment to transport the students so they may compete is a very rare and exceptional occurrence. It is because of the commitment to the SPP by upper management in the district that Special Olympics can flourish in these Fresno-area schools.
That generosity and forward thinking translated to Central Unified District. They provided the gymnasium, janitors and leadership students to make the Unified volleyball competition possible.
Welcome to the Family, Central Unified!
Located in the western end of Fresno, Central High School – East Campus, was very excited to host our students-athletes, and that enthusiasm shone through. Prior to the event, adaptive PE teacher Theresa Gomes-Bollier led leadership students in a workshop to prepare. They familiarized themselves with rules of Unified and traditional volleyball. They did some sensitivity training so that they were even more prepared to treat all athletes with the respect they deserve. Remember – language affects attitude and attitude affects actions.
The students also made plans to be chaperones for each team – help get them to the right court, show them where the bathrooms are, be a liaison with the faculty and more. This is a practice done in the NCAA Tournament and it makes playing at a new and different school a lot easier for everyone involved.
In addition to Ms. Gomes-Bollier, CHS Athletic Director Bryan Boel was instrumental in making the event possible. He handled the facilities request, parking, scheduling and even had his volleyball coach at the event. The administration is the heart of the whole operation, and without them, we don’t move ourselves forward.
We are so very encouraged that we added Central Unified School District as a partner with the Schools Partnership Program!
Volleyball – an Ace for Unified Play
While volleyball can be a difficult sport for a Special Olympics beginner athlete, we saw that it was perfectly suited for Unified competition! Having the general education peer partners made a world of difference for they would take tough situations, and turn them into better plays for the student-athletes. The game was completely accessible for everyone and it produced some absolutely exciting games! Bullard and Central were tied 17-17 after 20 minutes of play!
Not only that, there was such a feeling of camaraderie amongst everyone. The special education teachers note that the student-athletes loved having the peer partners on the court with them – coaching, encouraging and training them on the fly. Everyone was excited and having a blast!
The competition was a victory on all accounts! Thank you to all the student-athletes, schools, teachers, general education students who participated! A huge round of applause for Central High School – East Campus and Central Unified for being such great hosts!