• April 16, 2018

    Event welcomes special needs athletes from eight schools

    STARS event athletes Upper St. Clair High School hosted its third annual Put Your Best Foot Forward soccer event on Friday, April 13, 2018. Nearly 200 students – including life skills support students and their regular education partners – from eight area high schools participated in the festivities.

    The event was organized by the teachers of the Upper St. Clair High School’s Partners in PE class, a high school physical education class of general education students who receive their own physical education credits while supporting students with special needs. Partners in PE students also participate in a variety of social activities throughout the year.

    The organizing team includes Lyn Mulroy, life skills support teacher; Tim Robbins, physical education teacher; Dan Zelenski, assistant principal; Dan Beck, assistant principal; and Tracey Stringe, secretary. Student leaders from the Upper St. Clair High School soccer teams, Best Buddies Organization, FRIENDs Club, and students in the school’s Partners classes provide support and encouragement to life skills athletes throughout the morning-long event.

    “The enthusiasm expressed through our student-run committee is tremendous,” Mrs. Mulroy said. “They have organized everything from establishing the teams, leading the various activities, making banners and certificates for the participants, involving our soccer players, cheerleaders, and band members in the event, as well as reaching out to the community to seek donations for our USC luncheon, which will occur following the event for our more than 70 USC participants and adult supports.”

    In addition to partners and athletes, the Upper St. Clair band and cheerleaders participated in the event. The band performed a variety of songs as students descended from their school buses and followed the sidewalk to the school. Upon entering the school, visiting students and teachers were greeted by cheerleaders and other students who were quick and generous with high-fives and words of welcome.

    Participating high schools include Avonworth, Baldwin, Belle Vernon Area, Elizabeth Forward, South Allegheny, South Fayette, Washington and Upper St. Clair. Throughout the morning-long Put Your Best Foot Forward event, partners and athletes participated in a variety of activities including soccer, mat-ball and other skill-building sessions. Members of the Upper St. Clair boys’ and girls’ soccer teams provided support and encouragement on the soccer field.

    Welcoming students from other schools creates an opportunity for students of all ability levels to learn and grow.

    “Through these experiences, true friendships and mutual respect are being fostered,” Mrs. Mulroy said. “My group of students feels proud to invite the other schools to their school and enjoy the preparation and excitement involved in getting ready for the event.”

    The Life Skills Support class at Upper St. Clair High School has also been involved with S.T.A.R.S. (Schools Together with Athletes Reaching Success), which is comprised of more than 20 area schools that host various social and athletic opportunities. The mission of the S.T.A.R.S. partnership program is to provide meaningful activities for students with and without physical and intellectual disabilities to collaborate, create and participate in activities that enrich the school curriculum.

    “The spirit of full inclusion both within these schools and also in their communities allows all children to feel supported and valued in their communities regardless of their abilities,” Mrs. Mulroy said. “Every student benefits from the culture of inclusion and the opportunities it provides for students of all abilities to feel accepted and valued.”

    S.T.A.R.S. coordinates interscholastic opportunities where all students can compete, participate in, and build friendships through athletic and social events. Through a collaborative, peer-driven leadership structure, individuals come together to enrich the lives of all students in the collective high school communities. Efforts are spearheaded through a collaborative group of special education teachers, physical education teachers, and transition coordinators from the various school districts.

    In addition to Partners in PE and S.T.A.R.S., Upper St. Clair High School offers a Partners in SHOP class that was recognized as a Grand Prize Winner in the Magna Awards program, sponsored by the National School Boards Association. SHOP@USC is a student-run business, which operates fully through the collaboration between students with significant disabilities and their same age peers without disabilities. Within SHOP, students produce and sell greeting cards, business cards, signs/banners, laser-engraved items and USC spirit wear merchandise.

    “All the students involved from Partners classes to Best Buddies and FRIENDs club feel fully engaged in working toward the same goal of doing your best and encouraging others to do their best,” Mrs. Mulroy said.