Bearden students to compete in spring Special Olympics with a mission of inclusion


Erin Conley, Staff Writer

Bearden’s special education program will participate in the Special Olympics volleyball tournament at Gibbs High School on Thursday.

Hosted by the Special Olympics of Greater Knoxville, the event brings special education students from Knox County, Anderson County, and Oak Ridge, also known as Area 5, together for a day of athletic competition and community building.

“Different schools come together with their peer-tutoring programs and students participate in…sports and activities that they would not get to do on a daily basis,” senior and peer-tutoring student Lauren Hull said.

The monthly events are held at multiple locations throughout the Knoxville area and rotate between a variety of sports.

“We have them at Hardin Valley [Academy], some are downtown, and then at [various] soccer fields and parks,” senior and peer-tutoring student Claire Coffey said. “We have track and field, bocce [ball], basketball, volleyball…”

Throughout the year, students in the region also have the opportunity to compete in bowling, ice skating, and tennis. Other events, such as the annual Polar Plunge at World’s Fair Park, are also held to support the organization.

As a branch of the larger organization, Area 5 serves the local community while representing a mission to extend inclusion of special education students far beyond East Tennessee.

“Special Olympics is actually much bigger than just what our students partake in,” senior and peer tutor Sarah Morgan said. “It is a global organization…[that] offers many more Olympic style individual and team sports.

“[It] allows those with disabilities to discover new strengths, abilities, and skills.”

In the upcoming Special Olympics, participating athletes and peer-tutoring students alike will represent the Bearden community. The peer-tutoring program allows students to support and mentor their special education peers both inside and outside of the classroom.

“We get to be on the teams…hang out with them, and help them with their goals for the Special Olympics that they are doing that day,” Coffey said. “No matter the outcome, they get to enjoy the day with their peers and with their peer tutors.”

Both Bearden’s program and Knoxville’s Special Olympics organization have made an extensive impact in the lives of participants and all who are involved. 

“This class has had such a major impact on my life in more ways than one,” Morgan said. “I have built so many new relationships and friendships.

“It has opened my eyes and made me believe that…no matter what obstacles you face, anything is possible if you really set your mind to it.”

Following next week’s tournament, Bearden will also participate in the upcoming track and field event at HVA on April 15.