Castleton State College’s physical education program is all about getting kids moving and the department was recently recognized for getting dozens of Special Olympians and its own students doing just that. The department was recently named Youth Organization of the Year by Vermont Special Olympics. The VSO recognizes non-profit organizations around the state that volunteer time and expertise to the program.
“It’s a way for us to recognize those who go above and beyond,” said Vermont Special Olympics Program Director Dona Diaz. “We couldn’t do it without the support of Castleton.
The physical education program was acknowledged for its dedication and hard work on behalf of the VSO and its special athletes. Lisa Pleban is the associate professor and coordinator of the Physical Education Teacher Program at Castleton who helped lead the effort.
“We don’t do it for the recognition, we do it because it’s an important experience for our students,” said Pleban. “They learn to be great role models.”
The Vermont section of the Special Olympics, like all state level sections, is made up of various schools, dedicated volunteers and the athletes and families that use the program’s services. The program at Castleton is just one of many statewide that hosts Special Olympics.
“One of our goals is to get our students working with all kinds of people, not just school children, and to keep building those relationships after they graduate,” Pleban said.
Physical education majors like senior Courtney Chadburn volunteer their time and knowledge to help run activities like the unified sports games. The games are scheduled events and sporting contests for these special athletes, including basketball, that help build team bonding and sportsmanship. More importantly, organizers say, it’s a chance for the kids to have fun.
“We set up events, referee and coach the games, and get the athletes water,” said Chadburn. “The greatest part is getting to know them and their personalities.” Although students not involved with physical education program seem to know little about the school’s involvement with the Special Olympics, all interviewed applauded the effort when told about it.
“I think it’s awesome that our students give back to others less fortunate,” said junior Chris North. “It sounds like a rewarding experience.”
Those involved with program say North is right.
“Seeing the kids smile and enjoy being active is inspiring,” said senior Eric Slosek. “We’re physical educators and we love to see kids moving!