Archway Schools Kick Off 10th Annual Summer Olympics

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ATCO, N.J. -

The staff with Archway Schools provide students with multiple disabilities and of various ages nurturing, education, and development.

During her time teaching at the Archway Schools, Heather Fernandez Schafer was motivated to bring the fun and games she saw in the 2008 Summer Olympics - and as a former Special Olympics coach - to the students in her school.

“It’s such a liberating thing for these kids. I mean, the reason this is a success is because we all worked together as a team," said Fernandez Schafer, who is also a former Archway School student. "The kids loved it and we fed off the kids - [that's] basically what happened.

"And it was so worth it and I don’t know why more schools don’t participate in stuff like that." 

My favorite part of the Olympics is where we get to celebrate and have fun in the games.

Every student in the Upper and Lower Schools had the chance to participate and give input on the 30 competitions in this year's 10th annual Archway Summer Olympics.

“We take their ideas and we build them out and incorporate their goals and objectives from their regular programming," said Michael Graff, principal, Archway Lower School.

Students ranging in ages between three and 21 years old, formed 22 teams with names inspired by their favorite books and characters.

“I get goosebumps talking about it because they blow you away," said Schafer. "...You can learn so much from them, just as much as they can learn from us."

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The students were out in their costumes for a parade. The opening ceremony came to an end and the 10th annual Archway Summer Olympics is officially set to begin on Monday, August 13th.

“Oh, it’s awesome. I love it very much," said Noah, a student at Archway School.

“It’s really been a gift for me to be able to serve them and make this happen for them [and] with them," said Graff.

Everyone has their own favorite part of the Olympics.

“Competing with other classmates and getting a lot of points," said Elizabeth, a student at Archway School, regarding her favorite part of the Archway Summer Olympics.

“My favorite part of the Olympics is where we get to celebrate and have fun in the games," said Noah.

“Every year, [I'd] be balling my eyes out and they’d all make fun of me," said Schafer. "And ... I can’t help it because you see just how excited they would get [by] getting their medals. You just can’t help it." 

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As they say at Archway, 'The fun and games focus on the students' abilities and not their disabilities.'

“Seeing some of these kids and I’m like ‘Oh my God’- Peri Boone who sang - I was her first teacher. She was three years old in my class," said Schafer, "And I’m like look at you, you’re beautiful, you’re back in districts, and you’re succeeding. This is so amazing.

"It’s just so exciting. I mean that was the goal - getting everyone back in districts and being as independent as possible.”

The Archway Summer Olympic games will run throughout next week with the closing ceremony scheduled for Friday, August 17.


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