Northeast, Old Mill, and Southern high schools have been named National Banner Unified Champion Schools by the Special Olympics.
This year only five schools in Maryland earned the distinction. Three are in Anne Arundel County. Northeast, Old Mill and Southern high schools were chosen for their commitment to inclusion for students of all abilities through athletics and other activities.
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. Among those activities are inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement.
“What these three schools – and all of our high schools – are demonstrating through our Unified Sports program and other initiatives is our #AllMeansAll motto in action,” Superintendent George Arlotto said in a recent press release. “The life-changing lessons our students are learning through programs such as this cannot be taught from a textbook. They must be experienced, and I am incredibly proud at the way our schools are offering those experiences to our students.”
The Unified Sports program is available in all Anne Arundel County high schools and special centers. The teams are co-ed with a recommended ratio of 50% students with disabilities to 50% students without disabilities. Teams are formed in such a way as to provide training and competition opportunities that meaningfully challenge and involve all student-athletes. The teams compete against others in the county and throughout Maryland. Participation has been shown to improve sports skills, build self-esteem, and form new – and lasting friendships among students who may not have met were it not for the program. Students come together with the motto of “On the field we are teammates… off the field we are friends.”
Unified Sports programs offer tennis in the fall, bowling in the winter, and bocce in the spring. For more information about the program, go to aacps.org/unifiedsports.