With senior projects looming at Nevada Union High School, where students must dedicate 20 hours to their topic and write a paper and present a speech, two students decided to devote their time to a special cause for their assignment.
Special education tutors Robin Nelson and Emily Antonucci trained students for the Special Olympics, which will take place at Chico State from 9 a.m. to noon today.
“It was great because you get to see the amazing sportsmanship,” said Nelson. “Kids were always wanting to help each other and cheering each other on.”
The adapted physical education teacher, Amy Van Voorst, connected the two students after they approached her separately.
“She was originally going to coach, but when we offered, she was more than willing to help us out and give us ideas,” Nelson said.
The training involved running, jumping and modified shot put and javelin throw.
“We practiced for five weeks, and I got them to run around, go when I say go and stop at the finish line,” Antonucci said. “For the javelin, discus and shot put, they would throw a tennis ball, frisbee and light stick, and I had them practice the long jump.”
Part of the challenge of the training was knowing how to direct the students, Nelson said.
“It was really hard to figure out what kinds of things we needed to do, but with the help of my mentor, we figured out all the different stuff we had to go with,” Nelson said. “We had two different classrooms, so my partner took one classroom, and I took another. It’s been really rewarding.”
Another challenge was the excitement of the special education students, which made teaching difficult sometimes, Antonucci said.
“Some of them would get so excited when I was there, and they would want to show me everything, so they had trouble listening,” Antonucci said. “But I saw major improvements over the weeks.”
The students participated in a practice meet two weeks ago, and the event was frantic but fun, Antonucci said.
“It was a little chaotic, but for the most part, it went really well,” she said.
The meet garnered community and family support, and Save Mart donated a gift card for the barbecue, Nelson said.
“A lot of people came and donated their time and money to help organize this,” she said. “Parents came and took a bunch of pictures.”
The experience was rewarding because of the students’ improvement and happiness, Antonucci said.
“Being with them shows you how much you take for granted,” she said. “They’re just happy to be there … When they do something right, it’s the biggest deal. Our approval makes them so happy, and it makes me happy more than anything just being with them.”
Antonucci was a peer tutor and Nelson a classroom tutor, but the girls did not know each other before the training, Antonucci said.
“We balanced it pretty well because I wasn’t a classroom peer tutor, and she was, so she would find out information and give it to me, and we’d work together,” she said.
Both girls said the experience was rewarding, and they plan to pursue the field of special education in college.
“It’s great to see not only how I’ve helped them and how teachers have helped them, but they’ve helped each other,” Nelson said. “They’re really enjoying it, which is the point — to enjoy it and have fun.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.