Coming this spring, a new sports team will call Sedona home: The Sedona Red Rockers.
The team will be comprised of local special education students and their partners for what is known as a Unified Sports team under the Arizona Interscholastic Association. It is the only program of its kind in the northern part of Yavapai County, according to Dr. Trish Alley, director of special education at Sedona Oak-Creek School District.
“I think we have such a great community and we’re so lucky to have these students that I would love to get our community rallying behind them and do this,” Alley said. “I love Special Olympics, it’s been a big part of my life and I’d love to bring it to Sedona.”
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Alley, who is in her first year at the district, has a number of years experience heading a program like this. She arrived from Flagstaff where she helped run an elementary school team, albeit not officially under the AIA, and had this new endeavor in mind since her arrival in Sedona.
Early on she found out that Sedona Police Department Officer Jackie McQuaid, the high school’s student resource officer, has been involved with fundraising through Special Olympics in the past, so the pair teamed up.
Given the available facilities and somewhat centralized location, Special Olympics also thought Sedona to be the right place to have the program. It was not the first time that the idea had been thrown around, either.
“Special Olympics would really like to have a presence in Yavapai County, really more north Yavapai County, which it really has not been,” Alley said. “At the state level for Special Olympics in Arizona they’re saying that Sedona really would be a nice central place for the whole valley to really rally behind.”
Four Red Rock junior high and four Red Rock senior high students are currently in the physical education class, in which they participate three to four days a week.
Special Olympics provides the curriculum, which is aligned with the state standards, Alley said.
Beginning in the spring semester there will be a Unified track and field team. Since Unified Sports is governed by the AIA, it only covers high school-aged students, but the junior high athletes will practice with the high schoolers and compete in other competitions.
In Unified Sports the athletes are paired up with a partner. Partners must be a student without disabilities and also does not compete in the same sport at the varsity level.
The athletes will compete at the same time as other AIA sanctioned events; for example, at the track and field state meet in the spring. The Rockers look to participate in area as well as statewide events.
Next semester students without disabilities will be able to join the P.E. class as partners, but being that the program is still in its infancy the curriculum and other kinks are still being worked out.
With time, Alley hopes to expand into more sports and grow the number of participants. On Friday, Oct. 13, Alley said that the Cupertino Power Learning Center in Cottonwood agreed to join in, automatically doubling the total number to 16.
There is the potential for that number to grow quite large given its uniqueness to the area. As it gets bigger the focus will remain on the middle and high school levels, with the elementary schools, including Big Park Community School and West Sedona School, coming in later.
“I’m trying to start off slowly. My big picture is I would love for us to have four Unified schools in our district,” Alley said. “It’s so good for the students with disabilities and without.”
Funding for the program has come in the form of a startup donation from Special Olympics valued at about $3,500, according to McQuaid. McQuaid will head up the fundraising part of the operation, and already has experience working with Special Olympics.
The overall goal is to raise $10,000 for the program this year. McQuaid along with a number of school administrators from SOCSD will again participate in the Over the Edge repelling fundraiser in Phoenix, which is put on by Special Olympics.
There will also be another spaghetti dinner in conjunction with the Sedona Elks Lodge in the spring, too.
In order to be a volunteer, a one-day course must be completed, whereas to be a coach requires a bit more extensive training.