"We Are One" is the motto by which the Minnetonka High School Football Team lives, and it's a powerful one.
The third annual "We Are One" football camp welcomed more than 50 students with special needs from grades 3-12 to the high school football field for an evening of fun and connection. Each student was paired with a Minnetonka football player who acted as a mentor and helped them feel like part of the team. Over the course of the night, students learned about the sport, geared up, and made plays, throws and catches with their new buddies. The event is designed for all students and abilities, so that every student can participate.
This empowering event is hosted by MHS Head Football Coach Dave Nelson and the Student Support Services leadership team. "The 'We Are One' Football Camp is a special night for our football program," says Coach Nelson. "This camp brings together our players and students with special needs to enjoy a night of football with the goal of forming friendships as we start a new school year. I'm not sure who has more fun at the camp – our players or the campers!"
With support from paraprofessionals and Minnetonka Schools staff who already have one-to-one relationships with the students and families, the participants were able to focus on having fun and feeling a sense of belonging.
"What is most special about this night is to see the great big smiles on everyone's faces—from our students with special needs to our varsity players and all of our parents," says Michelle Ferris, executive director of Student Support Services. "Simply put, this is a night of kindness and learning about our fellow students."
But the connections don't stop there. Each of these students received tickets to attend the first home football game with their families and cheer on their new friends.
"The evening is an opportunity for students to be part of something special and to make new friends that we hope carries into the school year," Michelle concludes.