Merced High crowns king, queen at winter dance
For some Merced High School students, the old gym on campus was a winter wonderland last Friday night.
A large number of special education students taking classes there through the Merced County Office of Education got a chance to attend a formal dance in their honor and enjoy all the activity that swirls around such an occasion.
Candy Mucci, who has been teaching the special education students at Merced High for about seven years, said the sixth-annual Winter Wonderland formal dance gives severely disabled students a chance to experience a formal dance with their friends.
“It’s wonderful. They have a great time. The kids are just here to have fun,” Mucci said.
A king and queen were crowned. With a disc jockey playing music, students were able to dance, take a group picture and enjoy 23 pizzas, four cakes and hundreds of cookies purchased through the fund-raising activities of the Pacific Club. Besides the Winter Wonderland, a prom also is held during the spring.
Christina Maglachlan, 14, said she enjoyed the music the most, along with the food and the special dresses.
Tyler Bain, 17, said everyone attending the dance was positive and overall it was a good place where everyone could express themselves.
Charlie Rodriguez, 17, loved the cake, the dances and the costumes, as well as the strobe lights on the stage.
Special education students were accompanied by a group of Peer Assisted Learners, Merced High students who bond with them daily in their classes, helping them with reading, mathematics and other academic skills.
Christina Piazza, 18, is a senior at Merced High and loves spending time with the special education students, bonding with them. She ultimately wants to become a special education teacher.
Mucci said many of the PAL students like the experience so much they come back to work for MCOE or return to help at the dances after they have graduated.
“They’re just nice kids wanting to help out. They get to know the students as people and like the same stuff that all teens like. The idea here is just to have fun, as much of a regular experience as other students,” Mucci said.
Jesse Flores, also an MCOE special education teacher at Merced High, has taught at MHS for five years. He termed the dance “a really good atmosphere.”
Dianna Fierros was a PAL student at MHS in 2014-2015 who then attended Chico State University, graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She intends to pursue a master’s degree in psychology and now works as a substitute teacher.
She said it’s nice the special education students do not feel excluded.
“It’s awesome; all the kids look like they are having fun. I think it’s important to give kids opportunities they wouldn’t normally get. They’re just regular people like you and I. It’s also good that regular kids can be more accepting,” Fierros said.
About 30 leadership students at Merced High decorated the gym and served food to the participating students.