By Mayan Avitable
February 14, 2013 (La Mesa)--Wow! Just walking through the doors of the gym at Helix Charter High School was wonderful. Anyone could tell there was something exciting going on. The bleachers were filled with cheering students, the band was there--the cheerleaders were there. They were all cheering on students from the school's Special Education Department and other student groups going for the gold.
It was the Third Annual Helix Charter High School Games of Champions. Eighteen students with severe intellectual and physical disabilities participating in activities such as bowling, basketball, soccer goal challenge, agility course, and a throwing challenge.
Students and staff at Helix hope to raise awareness for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Along with the games, the event will also feature an “R-Word” campaign, inspired by a national movement featured on Facebook and YouTube, known as “Spread the Word to End the Word” (www.r-word.org). The attendees will be asked to help to eliminate the demeaning use of the word “retarded”.
“Our goal is to encourage students, staff and community members to have a conversation about the use of the word ‘retarded’ and pledge their support to build awareness and end the use of the ‘r-word’ in our community,” explained Kim Fleming, Special Educator and staff supervisor of the Games. “Most people- teenaged students in particular- don't think of this word as hate speech, but that's exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and friends.”
Helix senior Xenwen Wu spearheaded this year’s event, and worked with students and staff to coordinate the activities, participants, prizes, etc., as his Senior Project. “In Mrs. (Fleming)’s class, peers and students with disabilities gain mutually by learning from each other, which can start from values all the way to academics; the kindness expressed through these students reflects in their attitude towards life. Students in this program have built lifetime friendships, experiences and memories- everyone agrees that being part of this classroom family has been a blessing.”
Members of many of Helix’s student groups participated as volunteers assisting with the games. Associated Student Body (ASB) students will participate as spirit leaders during the event, members of the Helix Cheer Squad cheered participants on to victory, and the Helix Dance Team performed at the Closing Ceremonies. “The general education students on campus have been so helpful, friendly and supportive of our program,” said Fleming. “We have been collaborating since the beginning of the school year to create an event that showcases the abilities of our students, promotes inclusion on campus and raises awareness.”
The competitors in The Games of Champions are people ages 13-22 who experience developmental delays in the moderate to severe range or are affected by severe orthopedic impairments. They are enrolled in Specialized Academic Instruction.
Helix Charter High School is located in La Mesa, California and serves approximately 2,400 students from all over the county, with the majority from La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley. Helix High School was established in 1952 and was granted its charter in 1997, becoming the first comprehensive charter high school in the state.