Wildcat basketball coach Joe Duffield congratulates a participant in Wildcat Games

The tables were turned Friday as special education students from Lake Highlands High, Forest Meadow and Lake Highlands Junior High – accustomed to cheering from the bleacher seats – stepped onto LHHS’ B field for the 2nd Annual Wildcat Games. The grandstands were full of Wildcat athletes and other students excited to encourage them, while the LHHS cheerleaders, Ruby Reds and Highlandettes took to the sidelines to cheer them on.

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Special Ed teacher Christa Lozada created Wildcat Games last year, organizing the event down to the last detail with the help of teachers and paraprofessionals like Adaptive PE teacher Erica Davis, who practiced with the students weeks in advance to help them feel comfortable and confident on the day of the games. Adding FMJH and LHJH students to this year’s games contributed to the chaos, but the faces of those students were alight after each achievement.

“Our students are wonderful and we love getting to celebrate with them,” said Assistant Principal Mia Finch. “What is especially wonderful about the Wildcat Games is the support we get from Lake Highlands as a whole – so many groups take part in making the day a success.”

The school nursing staff delivered free snow cones and tended to medical needs, and the soccer coach made sure soccer balls were ready for competition. Custodians hauled out chairs and supervised facilities, and more than 50 student volunteers from Peer Helpers, Student Council and National Honor Society handled additional duties. Peer Tutors, who take a semester course learning to work with kids having special needs, were especially helpful.

Also pitching in were LHHS’ new Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy team, which painted faces and ran the photo booth.

“It matters for me to be here,” said junior Olayinka Alimi. “These are my classmates. If I was in their position, I would want to know that someone cares. Plus, this is fun. We get to laugh and dance and paint faces. This is the best.”

“We want to contribute in any way we can,” agreed Arthur Joseph, also a junior. “These are kids who are disabled, and we want to let them know that there are people who love them. You are important and you matter.”

It was tough to tell if helpers pushing or competitors riding enjoyed the contest most.

Cheerleaders, Highlandettes and other student organizations cheered the competitors on LHHS’ B field.