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PESO basketball game unites school

Special education basketball match a slam dunk for players and crowd

Mimi Cassato

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On Friday, Mar. 3, during periods five and six, eight senior PESO players had their annual basketball game against Lake Forest.

The PESO (Physical Education Special Opportunities) gym class works with students with special needs. The basketball game came to New Trier 16 years ago, before the current coordinator, Kay Pothast, arrived to NT, but Pothast has kept the tradition alive.

Sophomore Sophie Weix, who participated as a helper in the game said, “A lot of work and preparation goes into making this game possible. Pothast has helped a lot with organization and setting up the whole thing.”

Pothast proudy speaks about the recent advancements the game has seen. Since High Five Choir was initiated, the group sings the national anthem at the beginning of the game. This year, members of the Green Team went to support the players along with K.W. students and staff.

Almost every year, the team plays Lake Forest twice, once at home and once away. Pothast explains the similarities between Lake Forest’s program for students with special needs and New Trier’s ELS program, making the logistics of the game easier to coordinate.

While Pothast has been eagerly organizing the game for many months, the players have been practicing their basketball skills all winter with Special Olympics and in the weeks before in PESO.

“They’re excited, everyday we come into class and talk about it,” Pothast said before Friday’s big game. Along with the players, fans enthusiastically showed their excitement and support for the game by filling the bleachers. Green Team captain, senior Kevin Donahue, said, “The game was really great, we support all of our teams equally and love being able to show that.”

The support the game brought for the players was undeniable. Junior Sophia McGowan spends three-to-four periods each day with special needs kids.

“These kids easily reflect off other’s energy, and a room filled with cheering peers definitely gives them more confidence and encourages them to play to the best of their ability,” McGowan said.

Junior Nick Falter agreed with McGowan, “I think the support the school gives to the students is awesome, and I think it should be done more often.”

Before joining ELS, Falter described himself as “not as comfortable” working with people with disabilities, but after spending three periods every week bonding with the students, his discomfort went away, and he saw the similarities we all share.

Weix, too, said that she values the things she has learned from getting involved in PESO and Special Olympics. “I have created the strongest friendships with some of these students,” Weix said.

Like the peer helpers, Pothast’s experience in high school with a special needs student completely changed her life.

“There was a student who needed help, and there was no one there to help her so I decided to and it clicked, that was my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Pothast said.

Pothast also said that the support the school has given the PESO players, “makes things right, how things should be.”

Another year of the annual PESO basketball game has come to pass, once again, uniting the school community. The best part of it all was as Mrs. Pothast says, “seeing kids smile.”

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The student news site of New Trier High School.
PESO basketball game unites school