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LaBelle High School marks a decade of Special Olympics and leaving a solid impact

Students from across the district come together, demonstrating the power of inclusion and the joy of athletic achievement
LaBelle celebrated 10th Annual Special Olympics
Posted at 7:37 PM, Feb 08, 2024

LABELLE, Fla. — LaBelle High School showcased strength and endurance at the 10th annual Special Olympics on Thursday. The air was alive with the sound of cheers of encouragement as this year’s athletes were welcomed onto the football field.

The event kicked off with activities designed for students ranging from pre-K through 5th grade from across the school district. Approximately 250 students participated in a variety of games including baseball, soccer, and obstacle courses, assisted by 100 high school volunteers.

Mason Mata, a fourth grader from Westside Elementary in Clewiston, is participating in the Special Olympics for the fourth time. He shared his excitement about the event, stating, "Everyone comes together!”.

For Mason, the Special Olympics is a source of happiness and pride, a sentiment echoed by his guidance counselor, Paul Dippold. Dippold remarked on the incredible progress he has observed in the students he works with, including Mason. “From how he was in kindergarten to now how independent he is - it’s just amazing to see - and that’s with all my kids,” Dippold added.

The school says this event is so meaningful because of its focus on inclusion. They say typical students participate side-by-side with special needs students. LaBelle High School’s ESE and student services director, Lynnette White, says this creates unique learning experiences.

“It really helps our students with challenges work on some of those communication skills we want them to learn,” said White.

Hendry County School District Special Olympics Coordinator Crystal Rodriguez also emphasized the importance of bringing all types of students together, saying, “They get to come together and understand that we’re all different, but we’re all the same.”

As the event progresses, middle and high school students will also have their opportunity to shine as they compete for medals. White encapsulates the spirit of the event, stating, "We’re really here to just celebrate our kids and let them know that they are special, and they have the ability to do anything they want to do."