A group of Yukon High School students is training for the U.S. Special Olympics in 2022.
The Unified Sports program brings together both students with and without disabilities to compete on the same team, and this Yukon team is learning from the best.
Six Yukon High School athletes and four partners are training twice a week with the Oklahoma City Energy.
“For us, it’s all about aspiration, and everyone reaching whatever their highest possible levels are,” said Jason Hawkins with the Energy.
Gearing up for the Special Olympics national competition, they’ll be the first unified high school soccer team to represent Oklahoma on the national stage.
“This is a big deal for them,” head coach and special education teacher Renee Shoaf said. “Some of these kids, this is their first time out of the state on an airplane, so once in a lifetime to go to Disney World and play the sport is amazing.”
Hawkins said as exciting as the partnership is for the students, it’s equally exciting for the Energy.
“Everywhere we go, we’re just trying to create aspiration through the game. So as soon as we heard, especially that they were going to represent the state, we wanted to give them as many opportunities as we could to be successful,” Hawkins said.
The students and coaches are raising money for their upcoming trip.
“The friendship is amazing that these kids get just having a peer interaction. It’s really cool to see them interact in the halls, interact at lunch,” Shoaf said.