Antioch, East County schools form athletic program for special education students

Unified Basketball

Unified Basketball League game between Heritage High and Antioch High. photo by Michael Pohl

By Luke Johnson

Antioch and Deer Valley High School, along with Pittsburg High, have joined the three schools from the Liberty Unified High School District to become a part of a unified basketball league. This program, in conjunction with Special Olympics, is the first in Northern California.

Last year, Freedom High (Oakley) Athletic Director Steve Amaro helped develop a unified basketball league for the LUHSD, and the in-game atmosphere was electric and exceeded expectations.

It was a full gym,” Amaro said about the first game of last season. “It was amazing… It became more of an event than I ever expected.”

Amaro invited Antioch High Athletic Director Ferris Anthony to a game and he immediately fell in love with it, and was on board for incorporating it on to his campus.

I came back to the athletic directors meeting and said, ‘Count Antioch in!’” Anthony exclaimed. “They were all looking at me like, ‘What? What?’ I said, ‘We’re in, man. This is something we wanna do. This is a great thing.”

Team rosters are formed by unifying life skills students with regular education students. What this does, is make life-skills students feel they are apart of the school and creates bonds with regular education students.

They see me around school and say, ‘Hey, whats up?’ And that makes me feel real good, because they see we are also people in life, so we can also do what they do, but differently,” Deer Valley unified basketball player Jesus Guerra said to MaxPreps.

This program is currently growing, and has already caught the attention of the Mount Diablo Unified School District along with middle schools in Brentwood. Unified sports in the Bay Valley Athletic League has already expanded to include bowling in the fall and will have an undetermined athletic competition in the winter. This, like many other incredible things, is expected to catch on like wildfire.

It felt real good. I never thought I was going to do this in my life,” Guerra said after a game against Pittsburg.

The Antioch High Unified Basketball Team. photo by Michael Pohl

The Antioch High Unified Basketball Team. photo by Michael Pohl

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