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    Unified Schools Kick-Off Promotes Access and Inclusion
    Posted on 10/29/2019
    Students are greeted by UW mascot Harry the Husky on an athletic field

    Unified Schools Kick-Off Promotes Access and Inclusion

    One goal of the district’s new Strategic Plan, Seattle Excellence, is ensuring that students, particularly those furthest from educational justice, feel safe and welcome in school. For students to learn effectively, they must feel healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and have opportunities to participate in a school community where they are seen and treated as a valuable member of their community.

    Earlier this month, just in time to celebrate Disability History Month, five schools convened at Roosevelt High School for the district’s Special Olympics Washington Unified Schools Kick-Off on October 4.

    This event, co-organized by the Seattle Public Schools Athletics Office and Special Olympics Washington Unified Champion Schools, provided an opportunity for over 230 students of all abilities to participate in modified sports activities. Unified Sports is a program of Special Olympics that brings together athletes with and without disabilities to break down stereotypes and promote inclusion. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

    The Unified Schools Kick-Off provided students with sports experiences for all grade levels, and a passport to inclusion that educated students on ways to build a more accepting and respectful school environment. Students with and without disabilities were prompted to think about how they can create a positive school climate where students of all abilities are engaged and included every day.

    Students attend an assembly in a school gymMorgan Larche, director of Unified Schools, spoke to the assembled students about how they all have a role in supporting inclusion in their schools. “A lot of people say that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but you are the leaders of today,” said Larche. The dozens of students and adults in the gym cheered. Students were then released to various activities and sports stations.

    Students from Ingraham High School, Garfield High School, Lousia Boren STEM K8, Eckstein Middle School, and Roosevelt High School played basketball in the gym and flag football and soccer out on the field. Students with mobility impairments used modified techniques and supports to participate. Staff, paraeducators, teachers, and volunteers provided encouragement and assistance when necessary.

    Seattle Public Schools currently has seven high schools and four middle schools that participate in Unified Sports. Athletics Director Tara Davis is always looking to partner with schools and expand the presence of Unified Sports throughout the district. It is one of the many avenues to improving the experiences for students furthest from educational justice.

    “Unified Sports allows our students to really uncover the talents of each individual, and for that individual to be recognized as a valuable team member. All students are celebrated for what they bring to the table,” says Davis.

    Four adults stand together for a photo after the assembly in a school gymIt is important to normalize inclusive activities for all students. When our students are integrated and set up to learn from and alongside each other, all students benefit.

    Special thanks to all the people who made this event a huge success: Mike Ronin of Ernst and Young and the Connect Day volunteers, School Board Director Jill Geary, principals and staff from all the participating schools, and even Harry the Husky who made a guest celebrity appearance!

    Read more about athletics at Seattle Public Schools.

    Read more about the Seattle Public Schools strategic plan.