March Madness Comes Early For Denver Public Schools

On Wednesday, February 20th a handful of AmeriCorps members volunteered at the Special Olympics Colorado Denver Public Schools Basketball tournament.  All special education students from the high schools attending the event, first working on various skills-based games and then moving into a ferociously battled tournament.

If you have never seen one of these basketball games, you really should! One moment you are witnessing a student finally making their two-point shot after trying several times, and if you want to know what happiness looks like, you should see the look on that students face. The next moment you are nervous at the intensity of the game that leads to a student slam dunking the ball or making a beautiful three point shot.

It was great to see how thoughtful the athletes were to one another and how sportsmanship thrived at these games. One student was running down the court and could have made a shot, but instead he spun around and passed the ball to a teammate as he blocked the opposing team so they could make the shot. In another instance during one of the intense tournament games where the athletes are constantly flying up and down the court, one of the girls slipped and fell.  With no hesitation, a student from the opposing team heard her fall and spun around to help her up.

It was great to see these athletes from all over Denver, but what was also great to see were the students from East High School, where the event was taking place, volunteer their time to help out with the skills-based games and the tournament.  Around 50 students total, all wearing their neon green Colorado Special Olympics Volunteer t-shirts, I witnessed moments that I knew changed these volunteers way of thinking.  Preconceived notions were shattered when a volunteer referee saw a student slam dunk the ball and another volunteer was filled with happiness when she helped an athlete work on passing skills.

I would challenge you, if you do not already, to volunteer at one of the many Special Olympics Colorado events. If you are nervous about the idea or have your own preconceived notions, that is just even more reason to volunteer. Your eyes will be opened to the true definition of teamwork, perseverance, and pure joy when you have a chance to spend time with these incredible students who let nothing get in their way.

To learn more about opportunities, please visit www.specialolympicsco.org and click on the “Volunteer” tab.

-Teri Izquierdo

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