La Jolla High School hosted a first-of-its-kind event when it brought students with learning disabilities to join members of general-education classes to take on a comparable team from Madison High School of San Diego in the inaugural United Basketball game.
The game, facilitated by the La Jolla High Associated Student Body, was played Dec. 8 in the LJHS gym.
“For most of the kids, it gives them an opportunity to participate in a sport in high school, which normally they would not get to do because of either a physical or intellectual disability,” said ASB adviser Whitney Brookes.
La Jolla High students were encouraged to cheer on both teams — which they did, with packed stands on both sides of the court.
“I think the atmosphere has been super supportive,” said La Jolla ASB President Payton Smith. “It’s been great to see everyone supporting each other. These kids might not get the chance to interact with other students at this school because they have their own class, but everyone has come out to support them. And it’s not like a regular basketball game where it’s us vs. them. Everyone is playing together and everyone is rooting for each other. It’s really fun.”
Smith said plans for the event had been in place for years but fell through for one reason or another.
The intent, she said, is to “remind people to be kind … and have fun.”
Elena Rodriguez, an ASB leader from Madison, shared that sentiment. “We wanted to get our special-education and general-education students in a shared space and … I think it’s really good,” she said. “It’s so nice and refreshing to see La Jolla students come and support their students and us. Everyone is cheering on both sides.”
Rodriguez said she would like to see this or a similar event happen again in the future.
“The athletes are really liking it,” she said. “I hope we can invite Madison students to [attend] the next one.” ◆