They were honored with a Special Olympics National Unified Champion banner Friday with more than 3,000 students on hand for the unveiling.
It’s the only high school in the city of Hollister, but San Benito Highl not only has a huge campus, but its student body and staff also have even bigger hearts.
For more than a decade, they’ve put an extra focus on making sure all students can come together as one community. It started through their Circle of Friends program that they launched in 2010.
“The core of that program is to have students with and without disabilities eating lunch together, and kind of showing inclusion,” said Casandra Guerrero, the clubs advisor and Special Education Program Specialist.
The club expanded and holds other events like an inclusive prom and homecoming parade.
Some years ago the school partnered with Special Olympics and things really took off, with the school adding more inclusive sports like basketball and student Anthony Toledano’s favorite, flag-football.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to play sports all the time,” he said. “And I got to do it.”
Students like Katelyn Vass team up with students like Anthony promoting that spirit of inclusivity and enjoying genuine friendships.
“San Benito is so special, and it’s a gem in Hollister,” she said. “Everyone is genuinely so amazing all the time and inclusive and supportive.”
It’s largely for that reason the school was chosen out of so many others across the country for the ESPN Top 5 Banner Award, a national recognition for their contributions to their community.
“I’ve had other staff and students who come from other schools say, ‘My gosh, I’ve never seen a school that’s like this'” Guerrero said. “It’s really nice to hear that, that we’re special and unique. And I think that that’s what this honor really represents to us is that somebody else sees what we’re doing and sees that we’re doing something special.”
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