Pershing Middle School hosted its first annual Special Olympics for special needs students and qualifying general education students from across the district Thursday.
In the past, Special Olympics has partnered with high schools but not with middle schools in San Diego Unified, said Chris Ahrens, Adapted Physical Education Teacher at San Diego Unified.
More than 100 middle school students from seven schools came together as a community to play sports.
Teams and athletes gathered from across the district to take part in 10 Special Olympics events. The events were held from 9:30 a.m. to noon, according to San Diego Unified.
The activities included a 25, 50 or 100 meter run, along with softball, shotput or tennis ball throw, running or standing long jump and wheelchair events.
The purpose of the event was to allow students with unique needs an opportunity to participate in games and competitions with general education students, said Ahrens.
"It’s helping to break down barriers and stigmas as they work hand in hand with these athletes to help them train, and develop real friendships and things like that," said Ahrens.
It was not an event for everyone. General education students had to go through an application process to see if they qualified. Super competitive students were not recruited, said Ahrens.
The goal was to focus on teamwork and communication with the special education students, rather than be competitive.
"But if you want to learn and you want to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and you want to meet new really cool people, that's what we tell kids," Ahrens told NBC 7.
"And we've had a really overwhelming response up to this point."
Students spent weeks training for their events in order to meet qualification requirements for various divisions and distances, according to San Diego Unified.