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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Special Olympics Creates Memories
for Athletes and Volunteers

At SSD, the benefit of the Special Olympics program for student athletes goes beyond improving sports skills and competitive abilities.

“Special Olympics provides so many opportunities for learning and growth for our students - from increasing self-esteem and self-confidence, to making new friends and developing skills for lifetime participation in sports and athletic programs,” said Kerrie Townsend, SSD Special Olympics facilitator.

Like most other Special Olympians, SSD student athletes can participate in such sports as soccer, basketball, track and field, bowling, volleyball, swimming, softball and bocce ball. Unlike other programs, however, SSD’s Special Olympics program is part of the curriculum for students during the school day, and boasts a large group of teen-aged volunteers who plan and host events at local high schools.

“Special Olympics is awesome because it helps everyone in a good way,” said Isaiah James, a senior at SSD’s Neuwoehner High School.

The classroom-based approach to Special Olympics allows teachers the opportunity to include Special Olympics materials in the classroom and then to reinforce the learning activities through Special Olympics events.

“It allows them the ability to do hands-on learning with their students,” said Townsend. “It gives the teacher another avenue to see their students shine, whether it is interacting and socializing with their buddy, another athlete or another teacher from another school, winning a medal or standing up in front of all attendees to give a speech or present a plaque.”

More than 5,000 volunteers, including high-school students, help make SSD’s Special Olympics program possible. Students from partner district high schools or private schools volunteer to plan and host athletic events at their schools. Planning includes matching each athlete with a hosting-school buddy for the day.

The day’s activities frequently include more than the athletic competition, with many schools providing extras like game booths and crafts.

“It was kind of cool to get to know my buddy and learn that we like to play the same video games,” said Isaiah, who recently participated in a Special Olympics bowling event that paired Neuwoehner students with students from St. Margaret Mary.

Neuwoehner physical education teacher Patrick Green said he enjoys preparing his students for the Special Olympics each year.

“We love it when our students interact with the students putting on the event,” he said. “It allows our students to get a different feel of how other schools work together as a team.”

SSD’s Special Olympics program began in 1987 with a grant from Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Missouri and funding from the District. More than 2,900 SSD students are participating in Special Olympics this year.

Published February 2016

student participating in Special Olympics basketball event


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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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