If you want to see an example of how a school should work to include those with special needs, go to Brighton High School. ESPN and Special Olympics National are in town recognizing the school for the work it has done to make sure all kids are included.
Brighton High School is one of only five schools in the entire country to get this recognition. It has been named an exemplary school as part of ESPN’s Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program.
The district has used sports as a bridge to making sure all students experience inclusion.
On Thursday, students of all abilities worked together to prepare for an assembly honoring how the school is being recognized because it doesn’t just include, but celebrates students with special needs.
“We just love doing sports for the schools,” said MacKenzie Blanchard, a Brighton High School Special Education Student.
Special Education Students like Blanchard bonded with general education students who all joined together in integrated competition sports.
“It feels good because you are part of a team,” said Kayla Jacobson, a Brighton High School Special Education Student.
“It has really changed me,” said Nick Martin, a Brighton High School General Education Student who joined Unified Sports. “Seeing these guys light up, being able to play. We love them.”
“When we are on the court we are all basketball players. We are all bocce ball players – we are one team,” said McKenna Wiljanen, Brighton High School General Education Student.
The school staff then guided the bonds created playing sports into the classroom.
“My friends used to say it is so nice of you to talk to them,” Wiljanen said. “I said everyone should talk to them, they are great people and now everyone is talking to you guys.”
“How do you not feel proud and hopeful for the future,” asked Jody Renicker, a Brighton High Special Education Teacher in reaction to how students have embraced the program.
“They are a prime example of what inclusion looks like. We want to recreate this in every school across the United States,” said Leigha Bannon, of Unified Champion Schools at Special Olympics North America.