NEW YORK — Competition, fierce spirit and achievement.
It's what the Special Olympics has meant for decades to athletes and families across the world.
Now their mission is growing.
Leanne Fusco of the Special Olympics explains why their programming is so important.
Fusco brought in Ian Thomas-Minor with the NBA to meet with 100 New York City school kids — Some general education students, and some special education.
"They might be in same school, but never talked, never worked together. So we have these clinics to start playing a sport,” Fusco said.
Special Olympics is bringing their signature brand of competitive sports to the largest school population in the nation.
More than a million children attend NYC public schools, but all education is not just about classroom time.
It's also about the lessons learned in life, and that's something coaches and athletes know that sports teaches through experiences
Courtney Kresic, a District 75 special education teacher describes how it helps her students. "Teamwork skills. Collaboration skills. How to deal when things don’t’ go your way."
In Long Island City, mainstream or general education students are working on basketball skills side by side with students in district 75, some 25,000 special education students in NYC, with expert help from the NBA.
With every bounce of the ball, every dunk, dribble and pass. Teamwork teaches lessons
Trish Coach Lectora, an athletic director says,
"People have a stigma about special ed. If you interact with them, they are no different. It might take a little bit more time to understand, but they're human just like we are."
Ramon Derr, with the help of Molloy College basketball player Curtis Jenkins is learning how to perfect his free throw.
Chasity Carvajal, a general education student, says she learns much from playing with kids from the special education programs.
"It gave me a chance to talk to them individually. To get to know them. How they are, they are just like us. And just as energetic and like to play sports and do makeup and dance and have fun!"
Jahdlyna Jean Louis explained, "We didn’t interact with them because we have different classes subjects and lunch periods. We get to know them a little more when we interact. And we are not that different!"