Schools & Education

SBHS recognized for its numerous inclusion efforts

Special Olympics of Northern California and ESPN present a banner celebrating it as a Unified Champion School.
Students participate in noontime activities. Photo by Leila Sadeghian.
Photo by Leila Sadeghian.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Leila Sadeghian

On April 29, San Benito High School was presented with a banner from ESPN and the Special Olympics of Northern California for its advocacy for inclusion and acceptance. They were one of five schools selected from over 8,000 eligible schools across the country. 

San Benito High offers many programs and social activities which aim to include all students, particularly ones with special needs or learning disabilities. These include cheer, soccer, basketball, inclusion games, rodeo, unified prom, and the annual gifted games, which enables special education students to participate in athletic events in a noncompetitive atmosphere. 

“Inclusion has always been really important to me and it’s just really exciting to get this recognition from Special Olympics and ESPN,” said Cassandra Guerrero, program specialist for special education at SBHS. “It tells me that what we are doing here is recognized and important and seen and hopefully more people will see this which means that inclusion will be more of the norm in more places.” 

The school’s special education program serves over 300 students and allows all students to participate in activities regardless of their ability level, according to San Benito High School Director of Special Education, Paulette Cobb.

Over 3,000 students packed the Andy Hardin Stadium during an academic rally on April 29. David Solo, president and CEO of Special Olympics Northern California and Nevada congratulated the school’s special education program on receiving the award. The event featured music, games, performances by drumline, band, color guard, dance company, Baler cheer/gifted cheer, and a visit from San Francisco 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam.

During lunchtime activities, Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez presented SBHS with a proclamation to recognize April 29 as Citywide Unified Champion Schools Day. Special education students also participated in inclusion games during lunch. 

“I’m super proud of the school and the student body, everyone on campus, the student body, Circle of Friends, and our unified program is just so special and I’m so happy to be a part of it,” said Katelyn Vass, an SBHS senior and peer leader with Circle of Friends.

San Benito High has been recognized as a National Unified Champion School for the past four years. The National Banner School and ESPN Top 5 designation means the school met 10 qualifying standards in order to receive its award. According to the National Unified Champion School website, a national banner school has achieved the following standards:

  1. Unified sports is offered in at least two seasons throughout the school year.
  2. Unified sports participation occurs regularly over the course of each sport season or school term and includes competition.
  3. An adult coach for each sport has received training in Special Olympics Unified Sports.
  4. Unified sports is officially recognized by the school in a similar style as other athletics/activities.
  5. A Unified club or student group offers leadership opportunities/training for students with and without intellectual disabilities.
  6. The inclusive club/group meets at least once per month throughout the school year.
  7. The inclusive club/group has an adult liaison and is officially recognized by the school in a similar style as other clubs/activities. 
  8. At least two whole-school engagement activities are implemented per school year.
  9. Students with and without disabilities are involved with planning and leading the awareness activities.
  10. The school is currently self-sustainable or has a plan in place to sustain the three components into the future.


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Leila Sadeghian