Salvador Olivera had a chance to take part in the coin toss during Friday’s Valley Oak League finale involving Manteca High and East Union at Dino Cunial Field.
He’s a senior in the Special Day Class – a program of the San Joaquin County Office of Education for the severely handicapped – at the satellite EU campus.
Brennan Koeller, who is a senior linebacker on the Lancers football team, paved the way for Olivera to get involved in the pre-game ceremony.
“I wanted to share my experience with Salvador,” he said following the season-ending loss to the cross-town rival Buffaloes.
Koeller, who broke up a two-point conversion before hobbling off the field with an injury, had hoped that Vinnie Jones, another SDC student, could also get an up-close look at the coin toss.
But having Olivera there was a thrill.
“I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if not for Salvador and Vinnie,” he said. “They make my day.”
He first became interested in working with students of the SJCOE as a freshman. “That was during P.E. where they brought in students to try and fit them into the mainstream,” Koeller recalled.
As a member of EU’s Club BRIDGE – an acronym for Bring Respect, Integrity, Diversity, Guidance, and Education – he may have found his calling.
“I’m planning to pursue a career as special education teacher,” said Koeller, who currently helps out SDC as a teacher’s assistant.
SDC instructor Benny Dini has been impressed with the EU senior. “Brennan is great with our kids,” he said.
“He’s an amazing young man,” added SDC teacher Stephanie Gleaves.
East Union coach Willie Herrera indicated that Koeller is among those who best exemplified his program.
“We use football to touch the other things that happen in this school community, and that’s making a difference in people’s lives and in their memories,” he said.