GLENDALE, Ariz. – Raymond S. Kellis High School and Sunrise Mountain High School, both in the Peoria Unified School District, just renewed their status as national banner Unified Champion schools. To receive this designation from Special Olympics, these schools must demonstrate their ongoing commitment on the pathway towards the Inclusion Revolution through Unified Programs such as Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.
Unified programs promote social inclusion through intentionally planned activities where students with disabilities feel welcome, included, and all have equal opportunities to participate. In Unified Sports, student athletes/partners participate in a one-to-one learning environment utilizing social skills, teamwork and sportsmanship while competing in sporting events side by side.
Raymond S. Kellis High School continues to be a pioneer in the world of Unified programs, recently adding Unified Band, Choir and Dance. Being a Unified Champion School is more than including a few athletic programs, it is creating a school climate of acceptance that engages all learners.
For more information on what being ABLE looks like from a Peoria Unified alum and current Raymond S. Kellis special education teacher, AnnMarie Demeter, listen to the “Welcome Back!” episode on Trending Peoria, Peoria Unified’s podcast. The podcast is available on all major streaming platforms or links to each episode can be found at www.peoriaunified.org/trendingpeoria.
“Unified Sports teaches inclusion, respect, changing the climate in school and creates lifelong friendships,” stated Deborah Taylor, special education teacher from Sunrise Mountain High School. “Students in Unified Sports have the opportunity to participate in local, state and AIA events. Sports are: Unified Swim, AIA Swim, AIA Unified Badminton, Unified Soccer, Unified Floorball, Unified Flag Football, Unified Basketball, AIA Unified Basketball and Unified Track and Flied and AIA Unified Track and Field.”
“Working with the students in a different capacity (the swimming pool instead of the classroom), you learn more about each other and what makes each other better people and harder workers,” stated Sunrise Mountain special education teacher Sarah Roddy. “I have seen students who could not make it across the pool once when we first started qualify for the Special Olympics National Games next summer swimming four laps across the pool. We had two of our Sunrise Mountain Unified Sports alumni qualify for the National Games representing Arizona next summer.”
Both schools received this award for demonstrating impressive determination and are creating a “Unified Generation” of young people who embrace differences.