SELPA Fall Festival brings joy to ACT students


Justine Chen, Editor-in-Chief

A large crowd of 200 people cheering and dancing fills the fieldhouse. Loud, fast music pumps throughout the room and the energy is high. Others sit in the corners of the room, chatting with each other, waiting in line to receive an intricate face paint design or a balloon animal. Outside of the fieldhouse, red and white carnival booths offer games like ring toss, soccer in a net and cover the spot, and candy prizes line the outdoor basketball courts. On Friday, Nov. 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Lynbrook’s Academic Community and Transition (ACT) program hosted the annual ACT and Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Fall Festival and Dance for students with moderate to severe disabilities from Cupertino, Fremont, Monta Vista, Saratoga, Wilcox, Prospect, Branham, Mountain View, Milpitas, Palo Alto and Gunn High School.

Lynbrook’s ACT program has been working in collaboration with SELPA for around three months to plan this social event for students across the South Bay. SELPA works with school districts and the Santa Clara County Office of Education to provide special education programs and services for disabled students. The event rotates through different schools each year; past events have included a barbecue at Memorial Park hosted by Cupertino High School and a Halloween festival hosted by Saratoga High School. Because their disabilities can, at times, limit ACT students’ ability to participate in school events and extracurricular activities, the event’s purpose was to provide a fun social event the students could enjoy.

“Most of the students have multiple disabilities,” said special education and Viking Buddies adviser and event organizer Jim Schussler. “A large percentage of them are autistic as well, and in that case, social skills can be very lacking. That’s one of the primary focuses: providing students with an opportunity to learn how to socialize in this type of setting appropriately.”

In order to successfully throw such a large event, the ACT program asked for the assistance of many volunteers, including help from student groups such as Viking Buddies, Link Crew and ASB. The 15 carnival game booths were operated by Link Crew leaders, while members of ASB handed out traditional carnival foods such as popcorn, cotton candy, corn dogs and nachos. As official hosts of the event, Viking Buddies helped with cleaning up and setting up the event, in addition to interacting with ACT students.

“It was awesome seeing the smiles on their faces when they won the game and received prizes,” said Link Crew leader and senior Arjun Nair. “I know some of them took some time but just seeing them smile after they got it was the greatest prize of all.”  

The event was a huge success with more than 250 ACT students and approximately 100 support staff, including teachers, paraeducators, school psychologists and speech, behavior and occupational therapists, attending the event.

“This is one of my favorite events of our entire school year,” said business teacher Andrea Badger. “The population with special needs, teenagers in particular, is often overlooked. I love seeing how they have this great, warm and welcoming environment where they can just be themselves and be a normal teenager. And also, our students, our Link Crew, ASB and Viking Buddies, can work with them and just have a good time. It’s really reflective of how welcoming of a school we are.”