Special Olympics athletes joined representatives from student council chapters across the state Friday to play games at the Missouri Association of Student Councils State Convention.

PLATTE CITY, Mo. — Student leaders from across the state celebrated a special connection Friday.

Special Olympics athletes and the Missouri Association of Student Councils marked 25 years of working together during the association’s state convention at Platte County High School.

About 30 athletes from St. Joseph made the trip to join the celebration.

During a presentation in the gymnasium, organizers encouraged student council representatives to find ways to include students with disabilities in their chapters. The student leaders and athletes then formed groups and went outside to play games and take part in team-building exercises.

Mandie Bowman, Special Olympics coordinator for the St. Joseph School District, explained how students with different abilities complement each other when they spend time together.

“One of the big pushes in Special Olympics is our unified program,” Bowman said. “That’s where we have people without disabilities interacting with those with disabilities. It builds the camaraderie. It also helps encourage social skills, as well as build friendships.”

Groups of students worked together outside to pass a hula hoop around a circle, all while keeping their hands locked with the person next to them. Other activities challenged the athletes to throw balls through hoops or chase one another in games of duck-duck-goose.

Meanwhile, a dance party in the gym showed everyone can enjoy music in the same ways, regardless of their abilities.

“We were honored to be invited down here to enjoy a day that has been full of fun events,” Bowman said. “This weather had been beautiful.”

More than 1,000 students from student council chapters around Missouri attended the three-day convention, which ends today. Platte County High School hosted the event as the state president chapter. Timberland High School served as first vice president, Mexico High School was second vice president and Chillicothe High School was the state secretary.

Clinton Thomas can be reached at clinton.thomas@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPThomas.

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