ANTIOCH -- After making her first four shots on a small basketball hoop, Alexandra was determined to make it 5 for 5.

With her classmates behind her cheering her on, the 10-year-old student from Pittsburg's Foothill Elementary stepped into a circle drawn on the ground in chalk, clutched the ball tightly with both hands and launched it over her head.

After the ball went in, the special education student quickly spun around in delight, a wide, toothy grin on her face.

"I win!" she shouted repeatedly.

Her teachers, classroom aides and peers went wild.

"Yea!"

"Way to go, Alli!"

It didn't matter that someone had helped tip in her shot.

Alexandra was one of 90 children from the Contra Costa County Office of Education-run special education programs in Pittsburg and Antioch participating in a basketball skills clinic Friday morning at Turner Elementary.

The event was created by the county Office of Education and the Special Olympics of Northern California.

Students shot, dribbled and did passing drills with the assistance of teens from Walnut Creek Intermediate School.

Special education students, said program coordinator Sherri Roberti, "don't get to compete in regular sports, so for them to be able to do this and receive that direct attention, it brings out the best in them."

"It gives me chills," she said.


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Adds Jim Turnbull, who runs the county's adaptive physical education program: "You see them take these little steps, and it thrills them to no end."

Turnbull pointed out how one student from Antioch's Deer Valley High, Jesus, was doing dribbling drills after recently starting to walk without the help of a walker. Another student, Diego, is working to completely retrain one side of his body to function after a car accident.

"It's pretty remarkable," he said.

The program is also intended to teach the nondisabled students a lesson in acceptance and to dispel stereotypes.

For Dylan Sleeper, it was a lesson well-learned.

The 14-year-old Walnut Creek student, who was helping run the dribbling drills, said he hadn't really worked or been up close and personal with disabled peers.

"It's nice to be helping, and it makes you feel good to see them getting all excited and know that you helped," he said.

The Schools Partnership program between the county and Special Olympics started in spring 2007 with a track and field pilot program. The program is held at sites in the county throughout the year, including Danville's Monte Vista High earlier this week. It includes three sports: basketball, soccer and track and field.

The track and field event will be held in May at Brentwood's Liberty High School.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.