Fitting in can be difficult for any student entering high school, especially for students with disabilities.
Sports, while offering many the chance to play the games they love and bond with teammates, can also be a challenge for many youngsters and leave some feeling left out.
The Unified Sports Program at Cheshire High School looks to fill that void and give everyone a chance to enjoy playing sports together.
Unified sports, defined as a fully-inclusive fitness or sports program that has equal numbers of participants with and without disabilities, has become an integral part of Cheshire High School, and recently the program has been recognized for their efforts. It was named a Special Olympics Unified Champion School by the Special Olympics.
A Special Olympics Unified Champion School, according to the Special Olympics website, is one that “has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff”.
“Congratulations to Cheshire High for just being recognized as a Special Olympic Unified Champion School. We are so proud of our Cheshire Public Schools unified programs!” tweeted Superintendent Jeff Solan on Aug. 28.
The recognition comes after CHS was assessed on 10 different achievement standards set for high schools across the country. A handful of other state high schools have also qualified for the achievement, including Farmington High School and Southington High School.
“We had to fill out an extensive application … your school needs to meet certain criteria, most of which has to do with inclusion activities and raising awareness for the Special Olympics itself,” said CHS Unified Sports Coordinator Matt Guida. “Some of the questions include how often we offer sports, if it is a part of youth leadership, and how often is the whole school involved.”
For Guida and the rest of the Unified Sports participants, reaching the various criteria was relatively easy given how well received the program is throughout the school
“Throughout the year we hold tournaments and they are so well attended,” Guida said. “CHS is a really welcoming community for us.”
While the recognition comes as a nice reward, Unified Sports means much more than just playing a game to those involved.
“When you put that combination of students with disabilities paired with students who don’t have a disability, collaboration just naturally happens, and it’s amazing to see,” said Guida.