Special Olympics Hawaii E-newsletter
Farrington High School Program Creates Friends for Life
By Evelyn Uta’ileuo, Educational Assistant and Friends Program Advisor
“I had a rough, emotional game last night. A hip injury added to it so the game was even tougher, but a big smile crossed my face after the game as I saw these wonderful friends of mine. Thankful for the Friends Program.”
-Bryce Tatupu-Leopoldo, Farrington High School senior after winning Farrington High School’s homecoming game against Campbell High School.
The Friends Program began in January 2014 as any other great invention does -- just an idea. In a small office Vice Principal Ron Oyama, autism consultant teacher Ann Shigetomi, department head for the Special Education department Zhoydell Magaoay and Special Education educator Duane Fukumoto met to create a program that they hoped would inspire others.
Will students sign-up to join the program? Will students be committed and show up on a regular basis? These were just some of the questions they faced. After countless meetings the Friends Program was born and over time the program has flourished beyond anything they could have imagined.
Today the Friends Program consists of 30 general education students ranging from sophomores to seniors and 13 students from our Life Skills Special Education Program. They meet together every Tuesday and Thursday during lunch period for fun activities, lunch and quality time. Here are some of their stories:
Francis Garcia is a quiet student. When he finds himself around other individuals his conversations turns into nervous laughter. But Francis has found comfort in expressing his love for superheroes and drawing with the help of friends Freedom Alualu a sophomore and senior Siaosi Pakileata. When he is with Friends, Francis laughs at jokes and knows what it’s like to hang out with companions who he can speak freely with. Since joining the Friends Program you can distinguish Francis from his warm smile and find him creating masterpiece drawings for his friends.
Dallas Nickichiw is well known in the Kalihi community, but when faced with too much attention Dallas tends to run away. Junior Faitele and Tua Unutoa, both seniors at Farrington High, have helped transform Dallas’ running into a game where the three of them play tag for a few minutes and then return to participate in the lunch activities. Dallas, like other students, has gotten very attached to his new friends and loves seeing them during and outside of school.
Each year the Life Skills Program hosts its own proms. Our students are always invited to attend the proms offered by their respective grade levels, but the Life Skills Prom gives them an atmosphere that is dedicated and catered to their needs. One of our students, Lea Batangan, was a quiet and reserved young woman. English being her second language she rarely made conversation with other individuals. After being in the friends program for two months Lea started to become more vocal and enjoyed making new friends.
Last year, seniors Louis Matagi and Tatum Tanuvasa made it their goal to help Lea become more social and helped Lea fulfill her prom dream. They both asked her to prom, coordinated colors to match her dress and bought a lei and corsage for her. Needless to say she enjoyed her special night and danced the night away with her handsome dates.
Breiden Fehoko, a senior, is known across Hawai‘i as an All-American football player, but to Hudson Nguyen, a student in our Life Skills Program, Breiden is his best friend. Hudson is unable to speak and uses minimal sign language to communicate. He is a new student at Farrington High School and is still learning to adjust to the different faces he meets and greets, but since first meeting Breiden the two have become inseparable. They spend their lunch time laughing and although Hudson is unable to communicate through words, when you ask Hudson, “Who is this?” pointing at Breiden, Hudson smiles and holds up the number one sign representing Breiden’s football jersey number.
On October 4, 2014 the Life Skills Program with a big help from our supportive administration chartered a spirit bus for the students to attend their first ever football game to support their friends. During the game one of our football players Challen Faamatau a sophomore in our Friends Program was injured after a play and as we sat quietly waiting for him to stand, one student Jasmin Cozo who is all of four feet jumps up from her chair and with all her might screams, “Come on Challen, get up you’re okay! Come on get up!” Our seats were all the way at the top of Aloha Stadium and we knew there would be no way that Challen could hear Jasmin, but within couple seconds Challen got up and walked to the sidelines. As educators we looked at each other and smiled and glanced over to Jasmin who was jumping up and down screaming, “Yes! Good job Challen!”
These are only a handful of the changes that we have witnessed thanks to the Friends Program. The students in our Friends Program has become the answer to the question what does it mean to be a true friend.
This year alone they have participated in Special Olympics programs, held a Life Skills prom, advocated against bullying, created their first homecoming banner and attended the homecoming football game. Every day there is an experience that is either captured by camera or memory. We are so grateful to be in the midst of students who give up their lunch hours to be part of this marvelous program.
As Bryce mentioned how thankful he is for the Friends Program, we as educators are extremely humbled with gratitude with all the success the Friends Program has achieved. In a world where it is uncommon for the popular athletes to “hangout” with students with special needs, here at Farrington anything and everything is possible. There are more adventures for our Friends Program and we invite the world to stay tuned and to help support us in our efforts to show the world that our friends with disabilities are not INVISIBLE. They are INCREDIBLE.
Our Friends Program is filled with so many stories. Unfortunately there is not enough room for all the amazing stories that we encounter, but we would like to thank all the students in our Friends Program and know that when asked they each had a remarkable story to share.
Mahalo to all of our friends!
Thomas "Masi" Poutoa
Toasting our Global Messenger Toastmasters Club
Earlier this month, Special Olympics Hawai‘i Global Messenger Toastmasters Club from Hawai‘i’s District 49 was honored to receive the Toastmasters International Corporate Recognition Award. This award recognizes the support of our Special Olympics Hawai‘i athlete members and their Toastmaster mentors.
The Special Olympics Hawai‘i Toastmasters Club began in 2006 after Special Olympics athlete and Toastmaster member, William “Bill” Tyau passed away. The two organizations felt the best way to honor Bill was to join forces, bringing together two organizations that Bill loved most.
Hawai‘i’s District 49 has fully embraced this partnership and our Global Messenger Club has had two district governors who were each selected to serve a one-year term. This is quite an honor, not only for a Special Olympics athlete, but for any Toastmaster Club member. There are several members of District 49 who not only support the Special Olympics Hawai‘i Global Messenger Club with their expertise, but financially as well, providing funds for some of our members that are unable to afford the membership fees themselves.
Toastmasters provides Special Olympics Hawai‘i athletes the opportunity to practice their speeches on a monthly basis. Every Toastmaster that attends has a speaking role, whether to give a seven-minute speech or share table topics to discuss. This invaluable practice has helped develop and maintain our athletes speaking skills so they are better prepared to give speeches within the community about Special Olympics and the programs that we provide.
Please join us in toasting our Toastmasters friends of Hawai‘i’s District 49 for their friendship and support!
Make a Run for It!
Military personnel and DOD card-carrying members are invited to sign up for the Holiday Classic Fun Run, November 22 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. The run starts at 8 a.m. and all proceeds benefit Special Olympics Hawai‘i.
Adults and children over 12 are $20 and all paid entries include a free event t-shirt. Children under 12 are invited to participate for free.
To register visit www.SOHIFunRun.SplashThat.com.
Over the Edge Special Extension Offer!
We only have 10 spots left for our Over the Edge, Nov. 8!
But it’s not too late to sign up! We are offering a three-week extension past the fundraising deadline for those signing up in these last days before the event.
Just sign up and fill out the Credit Card Extension Form. It will allow you to rappel on Nov. 8 if you agree to let Special Olympics Hawai'i to charge your credit card for the difference that you are unable to raise up to the $1,000 minimum by Nov. 30, 2014.
This is strictly optional for participants -- you can still raise funds by event day and participate without filling out the extension form. Sign up today and secure your spot now!
For more information click here.
Sponsor Feature: Walgreens
This year Walgreens stores throughout the islands partnered with Special Olympics Hawai‘i to help keep our athletes happy and healthy. Throughout the month of June, 18 locations on O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island collected more than $21,469!
“One of the great things about partnering with Special Olympics Hawai‘i is the knowledge that 100 percent of the donations we collect will stay right here in Hawai‘i to support our local athletes. Special Olympics mission of serving the Hawai‘i community and helping to keep them ‘happy and healthy’ is very much in line with Walgreens own values and we are proud to support their work by collecting donations,” said Scott Sutton, Walgreens Hawai‘i district manager.
The top fundraising locations were Walgreens’ Nu‘uanu store which raised $3,754, Kane‘ohe store which raised $3,740 and Kahului store which raised $2,212. The top fundraising pharmacy was the Waipahu location, which raised $393.
All funds donated by Walgreens shoppers helped support Special Olympics Hawai‘i’s State Games. These competitions take place year-round and bring together hundreds of athletes and coaches from around the state to compete in an Olympic-style competition.