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CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City High School Spanish teacher Sally Berding high-fives students as they run the relay race during the Special Olympics pep rally on Friday.

Mason City High School sends off cheerleading, basketball teams bound for state Special Olympics (with photos)

MASON CITY | Mason City athletes bound for state competition this weekend were sent off with an assembly at the high school Friday morning.

Mason City High School’s Unified Cheerleading/Dance Team and competitive 3-on-3 basketball team will participate in the Special Olympics Mid-Winter Tournament in Iowa City March 9-10, according to a news release from the school. 

Special Olympics Iowa allows athletes to come together as they celebrate fitness, courage, respect and inclusion.

Unified Sports teams, such as the cheer/dance team which the school says was made possible by Best Buddies, which provides one-on-one friendships and group activities, joins approximately the same number of students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team to encourage relationships and healthy lifestyles. The cheer/dance team began in 2016. 

Mason City’s squad this year includes Lauren Lunning, Emma Stiles, Izzy Day, Lucy Roberts, Candie Eliason, Emily Lunning, Marissa Pope, Kinzie Johanns, Sydney Sullivan and Bailey Erickson. Paige Braun, Madison Braun and Katie Lorence were recognized for their contributions to the team.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City students and faculty compete in a volleyball game Friday during the Special Olympics pep rally.

Three basketball teams from Mason City were sent to the regional competition, and one earned first place and a spot in the state tournament: Dalton LaCombe, Kyren Harris, Chandler Ott, and Tyler Bell. They are coached by Pete Jean-Pierre and Dawn Hensley.

Special Olympics athletes at Mason City can also participate in bowling and track and field. All seniors participating in Special Olympics are able to earn a Mohawk Letter in recognition of their hard work, determination and spirit.

Seniors who received letters are:

• Kamila Clark -- bowling, basketball, track and field and cheer. She said her favorite part about Special Olympics is “being part of a team and feeling included.”

• Lauren Lunning -- bowling, cheer, track and field.

• Harris -- basketball.

• Bell --  basketball, bowling and track and field.

• Will Finley -- track and field.

• Ott -- basketball.

Sarah Zehr and Day, a member of the cheer/dance squad, were presented with the Buddy Pair of the Year Award, which is given to the most involved Best Buddy pair who demonstrates what a true friendship looks like.

They were recognized for the time they spend together -- at lunch or during pride time at school, and outside of school.

Friday's assembly marked the high school's 28th annual Special Olympics pep rally. School officials say Mason City was the first district in the state to honor its Special Olympians in such a manner. 

Photos: Mason City High School Special Olympics pep rally

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City students and faculty compete in a volleyball game Friday during the Special Olympics pep rally.

Iowa House votes to stop most ‘food shaming’ in schools

DES MOINES — Legislation to keep Iowa school children “full and focused” won unanimous approval in the Iowa House this week. 

Supporters said the bill would end most “food shaming,” or denying school lunches to children whose parents who owe the school for those meals, was approved 96-0.

House File 2467 “is good for the children of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids. “It makes clear to all public schools that current and future Iowa children will not be shamed because their parents are behind in payment.”

The bill establishes guidelines for schools to deal with parents who owe money for school lunches.

Schools will be prohibited from posting names or otherwise identifying students whose parents owe money for school meals. In some cases, schools have required those students to sit together at table separate from classmates, do chores to pay for meals or deny participation in school activities, lawmakers said.

Ensuring that students eat is important, Running-Marquardt said, because “we know that if a child is hungry, it affects their ability to learn.”

Although the bill was approved unanimously, Running-Marquardt said it isn’t perfect but has started a conversation “about feeding all Iowa children, regardless of their parents’ failure to pay.”

“We are the breadbasket of the world, and we can, and I know will, someday reach the point where we have better tools to use for school lunch debt and no longer use food as a leverage for payment,” she said.