St. Helena Parish School District, in collaboration with Special Olympics Louisiana, hosted a Special Olympics Kickoff event on Dec. 12 at the old middle school building in Greensburg.

Students from St. Helena College and Career Academy and St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy were bused to the old middle school facility for a day of games for the event and participate in project UNIFY.

Project UNIFY, a program through Special Olympics Louisiana, is a movement to initiate inclusion in all schools to promote school communities that exercise all young people as agents of change to foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities, school officials said.

The students learned new sports skills and improved individual sport performance. Participants also learned about individual and team sports and built friendships.

St. Helena Parish School System’s Chief of Innovation Donna Reno said it has been more than 10 years since Special Olympics has been in St. Helena Parish and was excited for the students to have the opportunity again.

“We plan to compete in the regional games this spring where our athletes will compete with other athletes from surrounding parishes. In the near future, we will incorporate the inclusive Unified Games where students with and without disabilities will train and compete together,” Reno said. “Special Olympics will only get bigger and better in St. Helena Parish and we are ready for all of our athletes to show off their abilities and bring home some ribbons.”

“We were very excited for our students who participated, and very proud of the administrators and teachers who helped facilitate the event,” Superintendent Kelli Joseph said. “We strive to include all of our students and provide them with opportunities to be successful in and out of the classroom.”

Special Olympics Louisiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.