Special Olympics team hopes for school unity

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Special Olympics team hopes for school unity

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Alex Cirino

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Wilson’s special education program participates yearly in the Special Olympics as a part of its effort to reach a wider audience within the Wilson community.

Wilson’s program participates in tennis, bowling, and track. There are weekly activities where Wilson competes with other schools’ special education programs.

Claudia Kulish and Maureen Thompson, both of whom teach special education courses at Wilson, serve as coaches when the competitions take place.

The Special Olympics organization believes that its competitions aren’t about people’s disabilities—they are about the athletes’ abilities. This is one of the ideas the two coaches want to spread around Wilson, with the hopes of creating a unified team consisting of both general and special education students. However, this is one that proves challenging. “The general education students are always occupied in another activity,” Thompson said.

The special education program still is successful within the Special
Olympic competitions. 2018 graduate Herbert Aguilar found his athletic success through the Special Olympics, earning a spot on the U.S. National Soccer Team. With the team sponsored by DC United, Aguilar is able to be involved with the first team on many separate occasions.
One of the programs that helps students with disabilities find success is the Best Buddies organization, whose main goal is creating strong bonds between students with and without disabilities at Wilson. Established three years ago, Best Buddies works with the special education program once a month through many fun, enjoyable activities. To Thompson and Kulish, this is a preliminary step toward achieving a united team that they wish more general education students would get involved with.

Unification extends beyond athletics. The Best Buddies participated in the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign as an effective way of unifying people by reducing harmful language. On “Spread the Word to End the Word” day, Wilson students along with countless other schools nationwide pledge to eliminate the use of the r-word.

“What we’re trying to do is to get the whole school to embrace us,” Thompson said. “My Special Olympics team has never been in a yearbook.” This is something that troubles both Thompson and Kulish, who are striving to create a program that is valued by the whole school. “If we could find a way to get more people involved in activities with our students because we have some really bright students and I wish they would be able to experience that,” Kulish said.