Along with its wide variety of cultures, the unity at Malden High School is unique in another sense. The school has a program known as PACE, which is for students with special needs and mental disabilities, hindering them from being able to attend regular classes. From the outside in, many people may think that there would be a very clear division between the “regular” high school students from the PACE students, but in fact, there is no division. MHS students are always eating lunch with the PACE kids, spending their free periods with them, and participating in Unified Sports, a gym class for the special needs kids where volunteers from the high school help run the class.
Administrative assistant Barbara Scibelli has been working towards forming a natural integration between the two groups of MHS, and she has been successful. Along with running Unified Sports on a daily basis, Scibelli coordinates Special Olympics every year. This is a day-long outdoor event dedicated to students with disabilities from all of the Malden Public Schools and many other schools around the Malden area such as Melrose, Wakefield and others.
At Special Olympics, the participants are buddied with a group of MHS volunteers and they get to spend the day with one another, while the special needs students have the opportunity to either get their face painted, run the 200 meter dash and more. Senior Kaitlyn Weng expressed that her “favorite part about [Special Olympics] is being able to see all the kids smile and laugh and have fun.”
Many of the volunteers participate in the Unified Sports program at the school. Senior Monique Knight Bailey mentioned that her experience in Unified Sports inspired her to participate in the event, and explained that “even though [this year as an MHS student] was [her] last, [she] hopes and plans to come back to help with Special Olympics in the next years.” Junior Jacqueline Smith explained that “seeing the kids laugh and finding a friend in [the volunteers] makes them feel supported.”
A day prior to the event, Scibelli rounded up her team of MHS students that volunteered the next morning to set up MacDonald Stadium with banners and flags in order to give the participants vibes that they are there to have fun and win medals, leaving with a sense of accomplishment and honor. The volunteers arrived at the stadium around 7 am the next morning to set up the tents and the activities while awaiting the kids to arrive around 9 am.
Special Olympics is an event that many people in the Malden community look forward to, such as Principal Dana Brown who stated that “Special Olympics is [his] favorite day of the year”. Throughout the day long event that includes activities like running races, long jump, tennis ball and baseball throw, and others like face painting, Brown enjoys the “level of respect that everyone has for one another.” He explained that the diverse atmosphere did not make a difference in the event, “[that] even though there [were] able bodied students and disabled students” it did not matter during the day. Brown exclaimed that the event is one that enables people to see everyone as “one school, [and] one team.” Special Olympics brings the Malden community together year after year for a day of fun, sports, and camaraderie.