Life Matters: Farrington football team champions message of inclusion

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Football players tend to form an exclusive club and are often some of the most popular kids in school.

Athletic and well liked, they run in an elite social circle.

That’s what makes Farrington High School special.

Its football team isn’t exclusive, but rather inclusive.

Back in 2012, members of the football team began meeting at lunch to bond with special needs students, their fellow Govs, and treat them like friends.

Make no mistake, this isn’t lip service. It’s the Friends Program, an idea started by Vice Principal Ronald Oyama that has grown to 40 general education students who come together every week.

One love, one Gov.

Current Louisiana State University player Breiden Fehoko was one of the first to spark this special connection.

A huge high school prospect, Fehoko and fellow star Bryce Tatupu-Leopoldo used their popularity to make inclusion cool. They teamed up with advisers Evelyn Utai and John Yago to organize bowling trips, college tours, and football games.

That began the process of acceptance of the school’s Life Skills students as peers to the Govs.

Normalcy brings confidence and progress. The social interaction has led to improvements with nearly all of Farrington’s LifeSkills students.

The program’s inclusive and athletic efforts were honored last month at the homecoming assembly. There, the Special Olympics honored the Govs with a National Unified Champion School banner that now hangs in the gym and at Edward “Skippa” Diaz Stadium.

The hope is that other campuses take notice.

With a stigma of a rugged school, Farrington is a bright light in one of the dark shadows of bullying that still plagues our schools.

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