PALMDALE – More than 20 students are participating in Westside Union School District’s Sports Inclusion program for students with disabilities, officials announced.
The program is a first for the Antelope Valley and consists of 14 special education students who are the athletes and 12 general education students that volunteer as peer coaches.
The Sports Inclusion program is currently taking place at Hillview Middle School and is led by a team of facilitators overseeing the program and participating as referees.
Facilitators partnered a student volunteer with a special education student to guide them through the sport of soccer. The students have conducted stretches, drills and a practice game every Tuesday, leading up to their final game on Nov. 14.
“Our goal was to create a program that is inclusive for all our students and accepts everyone for who they are,” stated Hillview Co-Principal Jennifer Slater-Sanchez. “Both athletes and coaches have developed a strong bond that is shaping our school climate in a positive direction. Our staff have witnessed more interactions among the students during school hours and not just during the program.”
Students participating in the program have demonstrated improvement in social skills, behavior and self-esteem inside and outside the classroom. Parents are in support of the program and regularly attend their child’s practice games.
“My son gets excited every morning to attend school since he began the program. It is helping him strive forward in life and has improved his behavior at home,” stated Hillview parent Marcelima Luna. “I am very grateful that my son is able to participate in a sport and be a part of an extracurricular activity at Hillview.”
The final soccer game for the season will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Hillview Middle School. The program will return in the spring to prepare the Hillview Hawks Dream Team Inclusion Sports League for the basketball season.