While the Turlock High School Winter Rally is an annual time of celebration, a spirit of compassion filled the Bulldog Arena on Friday as students stood shoulder to shoulder cheering for their peers and honoring several causes.
The traditional processional of winter prince and princess candidates was met with a round of applause, with candidate Mariah Delgado fortunate enough to have two escorts as she walked down the aisle representing the THS cheerleaders. After volunteering in Kyle Sires’ special education classroom during first and sixth periods with fellow escort Jacob Marquez, both felt their good friend Edgar Zavala, a nonverbal handicapped student in Sires’ class, could benefit from the experience as well.
“Edgar has become a best friend of mine and he likes to think of Mariah as his girl friend, so we thought this would be a great thing for him to experience too,” said Marquez. “He was nervous but excited, you could tell from the big smile on his face.”
The integration of traditionally and specially educated students not only provides exposure to the diverse population of students that attend Turlock High School every day but also cultivates sensitivity and awareness.
“Turlock is very inviting in general, but this is the first time that one of the specially educated students has been asked to participate in this way. They did this out of the kindness of their heart and Edgar was so excited, he couldn’t stop shaking his legs,” said Sires.
After the royal court candidates were seated, Assistant Principal Aaron Mello took center stage. Standing before a crowd of hundreds and alongside three students who have survived cancer, Mello and the students showed their support for the school's American Cancer Society Rely for Life team. Several other students and staff stood up in the crowd with signs to pay honor to those who have battled cancer, also.
“There is not a person in this room that does not know someone affected by cancer and we have an opportunity every day to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Mello to the crowd of students, a two time cancer survivor himself.
The presentation was coordinated by the Relay for Life club and overseen by Kristin Bettencourt, who remarked that the club’s enthusiasm is one of a kind.
“We wanted to raise awareness and try to recruit people who are not a part of the club to get involved and we thought this would be a great way to do it,” said Bettencourt.
The assembly was also receptive to a presentation by Kimberlie Gamino, executive director of Camp Taylor, who educated the students about congenital heart disease and ways that they can help make camp a possibility for affected youth. Camper Ethan Millerick, who has undergone five open heart surgeries, spoke about his rewarding camp experience. The rally held a coin drive competition between the classes and students and teachers alike pitched in to kick off the Coins for Kaep’s Campers Coin Drive.
The coin drive will continue at schools across the Turlock Unified School District through Feb. 12. The Relay for Life event will be held at California State University, Stanislaus from 8 a.m. April 5 to 8 a.m. April 6.