Obstacle course designed for special needs students at Houston school

HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Have you ever loved and believed in something so much that you poured every bit of yourself into it? One Houston-area educator is doing just that and her campus now has something no other U.S. school has.

Step outside The Monarch School and Institute and you’ll witness recess with an "American Ninja Warrior" flair because there's an actual obstacle course on the campus where 74 percent of the students are on the autism spectrum.

"I love the course," says 22-year-old Sara Mirzai, a student at The Monarch School and Institute. "I think it's good for people to promote their physical fitness, their self confidence.”

"It helps to support learning and cognitive development," adds Patti Pace who heads The Monarch School and Institute. "Monarch means the world to me.” 

The obstacle course was actually built at The Monarch School and Institute thanks to a chance meeting. Pace's home was hammered by Hurricane Harvey. As she worked to rebuild, she went to buy a used china cabinet and ended up meeting Sam Sann, an eight-time "American Ninja Warrior" competitor and his partner, Karen Madaras, who builds the courses in gyms and backyards.    

"Within three or four months, a very generous parent said he wanted to fund it and that's how it happened,” says Pace with a smile.

"This is the first 'American Ninja Warrior' ninja course in the nation at a school," describes Madaras.

"Every kid needs to have an opportunity to challenge their strength, inner strength, and learn skills to overcome any obstacles they have in life," explains Sann.

"The ninja course will be built into the curriculum in a health course and a movement course," says Pace.

Mirzai says the course also builds brain power.  

"It makes your brain strong and helps you to think more and retain information," says Mirzai. "It teaches how to regulate emotionally, physically, mentally."

The course also helps to promote teamwork and what a team that Pace is helping to build at The Monarch School and Institute.