The Special Olympics Southern California Unified Young Athletes Showcase was a sight to see at the Warm Springs Middle School on May 4, 2022.
Young athletes were kicking soccer balls while their peers cheered for them. Parents held back tears as their kids took the basketball court; for most, this was their first-time playing sports. And everyone couldn’t help but smile as the athletes ducked, weaved, and crawled through the obstacle course.
The inaugural Young Athletes Showcase, with Warm Springs Middle School hosting, featured students ages 2 – 7 from the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. The athletes participated in basketball, bowling, soccer, and an obstacle course and got to play games and have fun in an Olympic Village. Through Special Olympics Young Athletes, children build healthy habits, learn how to play with others, and develop the foundation for important life skills.
“Our leaders enjoyed every opportunity to connect with the young athletes,” said Erin Perez, a teacher at Warm Springs Middle School. “The event was a success, and we look forward to hosting the Unified Young Athletes Showcase next year!”
Led by teachers Ashlee Moon, Erin Perez, and Monique Gonzalez-Scott, all of Warm Springs Middle School banded around the event. They coordinated everything from awards and prizes to the sports venues and Olympic Village to the operations and so much more.
The arduous planning created an exciting and joyous atmosphere from the moment the students arrived. The athletes were encouraged to participate in all the events: soccer, bowling, basketball, and an obstacle course. They were welcomed into the Olympic village where they could play various games: darts, cornhole, Jenga, and Connect Four. Athletes won prizes, and everyone left with a smile.
This event is a microcosm for Warm Springs Middle School’s dedication to empowering students to become leaders and inspiring the entire student and faculty body to include and accept all people.
For their efforts as a Unified Champion School, they are up to be recognized as a National Banner school for the 2021-2022 school year. This recognition is given to schools who meet standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect through three activity types: Unified Sports, youth leadership, and whole school engagement. Utilizing this strategy, schools become more accepting and inclusive for students with and without intellectual disabilities and students gain even more opportunities to develop character, responsibility, and good citizenship.
“Warm Springs Middle School, under the leadership of Ashlee, Erin, and Monique, is paving the way for inclusion in the MVUSD middle schools,” said Blake English, a Senior Manager of Sports & Programs for Special Olympics Southern California. “But their work doesn’t stop there as they have welcomed the opportunity to host this Unified Young Athletes Showcase and put incoming students at ease by helping to create an inclusive environment on campus.”