At lunch last Friday, M-A’s Independent Living Skills (ILS) students played a six-on-six basketball game with the varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The ILS Program is dedicated to providing academic life skills for M-A students with disabilities through academic classes, physical education, and extracurricular courses like driver’s education.

At the sound of the lunch bell, student and teacher spectators gathered in the gym, filling up the bleachers and crowding the sidelines. PE teacher Craig Carson served as the referee and initiated the tipoff.

Members of the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams played alongside the ILS students. Junior José Lopez, one of the star ILS players, made continuous steals and scored numerous layups after making fast breaks down the lane. Freshman Joseph Aburto was another key scorer, and had multiple blocks throughout the game.

In the final seconds, Lopez sprinted down the court and shot a buzzer beater, sealing the game. The crowd erupted into cheers.

“The game was amazing,” Lopez said. “My favorite moment was passing the ball to my teammates.”

“I see those kids every day,” Carson said. “It’s fun officiating because they get to interact with a lot of the varsity players.”

The ILS students will go on to play in a tournament in March. “This is kind of like a little warm-up game,” Carson explained.

“It’s just nice to see all the students coming here to watch,” said Laki Fonua, a paraprofessional and ILS instructor at M-A.

“I look forward to seeing students use this opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t normally connect with,” said senior Madeline Molise, one of the event’s lead organizers. “I want people to use this as an opportunity to make new friends.”

“Basketball has always been a big part of my life,” said senior Lauren Van Stralen, the starting point guard for the girls’ varsity basketball team. “I really appreciate knowing that it can be a part of everyone’s life.”

Celine Chien is a sophomore at M-A. She is particularly passionate about areas concerning social justice and her own Chinese heritage. Through journalism, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the M-A community and highlight the different voices in her area. In her free time, she likes to cook and spend time with her family.

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