ESU students build Special Olympics 'from the ground up'

The university welcomed some 400 athletes at last Sunday's games

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  • East Stroudsburg University students and faculty teamed up for the games (Photo provided)

“This class is giving me the opportunity to put everything I have learned into a real world setting. It has its challenges and we have to work with what we have, but seeing a smile on the faces of the athletes will be a reward in itself.”
Christine Wolosz

— Students and faculty from East Stroudsburg University’s departments of special education and rehabilitation and sport management joined forces to put together the 2018 Monroe County Special Olympics Fall Invitational last Sunday.

The Special Olympics has been celebrated on ESU’s campus for more than years. This year, about 400 athletes came to campus to experience the games and events of the Monroe County Special Olympics Fall Invitational prepared for them by students in both departments. Events were held at Eiler-Martin Stadium, Koehler Fieldhouse, Mitterling Field, and the Koehler Fieldhouse quad.

Edward Arner, instructor of sport management, teaches Organization and Administration Sport Operations, a capstone class, which requires students to apply course content to real life situations, use critical thinking and problem solving skills, and develop and implement their own organizational structure when planning events.

“They are responsible for the logistics of the Special Olympics games, building the event from the ground up,” Arner said. “It is up to the class to determine what is needed for each event, and how to get it. It promotes leadership skills and social skills, things that students don't typically consider in their daily lives, It’s a lesson that will prepare them for a career in sport management.”

The students planned each sporting event, including flag football and soccer games, and volleyball matches. They also recruited volunteers.

“An event of this caliber is not possible without help," Arner said. "It is up to the students to find volunteers, assign them jobs for the day, and see to it that every area is covered."

Christine Wolosz of East Stroudsburg, a senior majoring in sport management, is a student in the class and the event director.

“This class is giving me the opportunity to put everything I have learned into a real world setting,” Wolosz said before the games. “It has its challenges and we have to work with what we have, but seeing a smile on the faces of the athletes will be a reward in itself.”

Wendy Smith, instructor of special education and rehabilitation, teaches curriculum instruction for students with low-incidence disabilities. Students in this class are working toward a dual certificate in either early childhood and special education or middle/high school and special education. These students were responsible for Olympic Town, a place where the athletes cooled down and fueled up with refreshments and snacks and took part in arts and crafts, including decorating cupcakes and making their own superhero capes. There were also therapy dogs in Olympic Town, which was located in the parking lot between Kohler Fieldhouse and Linden Hall.

Smith believes working with the athletes "will give her students the ability to meet and interact with people from all types of backgrounds."

"It will help students gain confidence and boosts their resumes, which makes them more marketable to employers as they prepare for a career of teaching in special education classrooms," she said.

Special Olympics is a global organization that uses sports as a catalyst to change society’s perceptions and treatment of people with intellectual disabilities. It is a brand known throughout the world and serves over four million individuals with intellectual disabilities. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics.

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