Students at two Catho
Throughout the school year, members of the Bishop McGuinness High School girls' soccer team helped mentor young students at Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy. Good Shepherd, 13404 N Meridian, is the state's first school geared for children with autistic spectrum and similar neurological disorders.
Recently, students from both schools came together for the girls' soccer team's senior night presentation at a soccer game at Bishop McGuinness, 801 NW 50.
Coach Sally Schmidt said the soccer players have worked with the Good Shepherd students since the school opened in the fall of 2011. She said the girls taught the young children soccer fundamentals and along the way developed friendships with them.
“The kids are just awesome and they want to be a part of a team,” Schmidt said.
She said the interaction between the two groups was a blessing to the team.
“Our players were humbled to do this,” Schmidt said. “The rewards were just seeing the kids' faces. They smiled whenever the girls were out there with them.”
Mary Kate Roy, 18, was one of the players who helped escort several Good Shepherd students out on the McGuinness soccer field on senior night.
“Walking out with us on the field, saying the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, they might not be able to experience that, so it was nice having them be a part of that atmosphere,” Roy said.
Elyse Hight, another McGuinness senior, said she worked with the Good Shepherd students once a week for about an hour. She said soccer team members were pleased at how the children progressed as the lessons continued.
“To see them interact with other kids, stay on the field and learn the fundamentals was great,” Hight said.
Hight, 18, said the time with the Good Shepherd students was relaxing and it jogged her memory of her own childhood soccer matches, which she said lacked the stresses of competitive games that came as she grew older.
“There's just such excitement for them to be out here. It reminds me of what it was like to be out there and just play,” she said.
Donna Kearns, principal at Good Shepherd and a professor of applied behavior analysis at the University of Central Oklahoma, said the time on the soccer field represents more than sports lessons for the children with autism.
“Motor coordination for a lot of our students is a major issue. This interaction has encouraged them to improve their motor skills, which helps to improve their language and socialization as well as other skills,” Kearns said.
“It's been a really helpful program for our students.”
Good Shepherd School opened through a collaborative effort between Mercy Health Center, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the University of Central Oklahoma.
The McGuinness girls soccer players' participation with the Good Shepherd students was part of the local Kick Start soccer program for children with autism.