“Go, Braly, go! Go, everyone, go!” were among the spirited cheers coming from student spectators who waved their handmade posters and pom poms at Braly Elementary School on April 1.
Special education students from all over the Santa Clara Unified School District participated in a soccer skills program through Special Olympics Northern California’s Schools Partnership Program. The young athletes showed off their smoothest soccer moves as their fifth-grade general education peer buddies helped them along. At the end of the program, local law enforcement officers distributed ribbons to the participants.
“We had students from Kathryn Hughes Elementary School, Haman Elementary School and Montague Elementary School come here,” said Ryan Lee, Principal of Braly, who thanked all the supporters of the event. “I want to raise awareness with our general education population. Our posters on campus have spread the message that everyone has different abilities. It’s important that we respect the different abilities our students have. This event showcased the different abilities our students have, especially those who are in the special education program.”
“We are combining a set of skills stations with a couple of soccer games,” said Elizabeth Knirck, Special Education Teacher at Braly. “Braly is playing Montague. Hughes is playing Haman. The soccer skills stations are available for other students to play in. The students who are not playing the soccer game are able to participate in these centers.”
At the skills centers were a soccer dribbling station (kicking the ball down the field), a soccer shooting station (kicking a ball toward a goal) and a soccer passing station (kicking a ball back and forth).
When Alexis Vaile, 10, a Braly student and peer buddy, saw that her buddy wasn’t interested in playing a game, she patiently guided him through a skills center.
“It’s great that we have the opportunity at Braly to help people. Special Olympics is a big part of that,” Vaile said. “We have so much fun with our buddies. It’s great that they get a chance to do something that they don’t get to do all the time so they can have fun and play.”
“Originally, Amanda Abruzzini [a teacher at Montague] was the first special education teacher to bring Special Olympics to our district,” Knirck said. “Braly participated two years ago. Last year, Montague was unable to host the event. But I set up Braly to do the Young Athletes event.
“This year, I want to broaden the Special Olympics opportunities at Santa Clara Unified,” continued Knirck. “A team of us — Angie Scott, Zahra Salari and Carolyn Simpson — have been working to broaden the Special Olympics this year. That’s why we invited students from Hughes, Montague and Haman to join us.”
According to Knirck, the Santa Clara Unified School District has been helping students work on their soccer skills for the last few months.
“Angie Scott has been the P.E. TOSA [Teacher on Special Assignment] for the last few months,” Knirck said. “She has been working with the physical education teacher on our campuses to mainstream our moderate to severe students during our P.E. time to practice soccer skills.”