Special Olympics Delaware recently announced five Delaware Schools that have been named official National Banner Unified Champion Schools for their commitment to inclusion. Lulu Ross Elementary and Benjamin Banneker Elementary in the Milford School District were among the honorees. In the entire country, only 173 schools received this distinction for the 2018-19 school year.
A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
“Year after year, these Milford schools look for ways to improve on what they are doing and create other opportunities for their students to initiate, support and maintain inclusion in every grade level,” stated Jon Buzby, Director of Unified Champion Schools Special Olympics Delaware. “What’s neat is seeing the kids at Milford Central Academy and Milford High School doing the same thing, ignited from their initial involvement at the Elementary level. We couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve accomplished and continue to build on.”
Determined by Special Olympics Inc., in order to receive this designation, each school met 10 standards of excellence focusing on Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole-School Engagement. Lulu Ross Elementary teacher Michele Davis has been involved with SODE for 14 years and is currently the school program director, as well as a coach for the Sussex Riptide community team.
“I cannot say enough about the impact our partnership with SODE has had on our school community,” said Davis. “SODE provides equipment, training, and support as we need it. They are invested in our community and go out of their way to seek areas where they could support or promote the message on inclusion and acceptance.”
In addition to unified sports like basketball and soccer skills and unified soccer teams, Lulu Ross supports the Project Unify Club, which helps to bring awareness to students, as well as all other individuals in the community experiencing differences. Their Get Into It Activities include video chat experiences with individuals with disabilities, “in their shoes” activities simulating experiences of those who experience disabilities, group support activities such as “Ross Walk for Autism” to support Autism awareness in honor of one of our members, collaborative activities directed at fostering new relationships and fellowship amongst peers of all abilities and school-wide awareness activities such as poster and announcement creation.
“I am very fortunate to work in a school where not only the staff celebrates individuals of all abilities, but we also teach our students to do the same. I have a very supportive staff surrounding me that assist in planning and carrying out unified events,” said Davis. “Our program works so well because we have one hundred percent support from our administrators, teachers and staff with the common goal of promoting inclusion and acceptance, and the willingness and openness of the students and parents we serve to engage in inclusive activities.”
Benjamin Banneker Elementary teacher Laurie Moorman has been involved with SODE for 17 years and is currently the school program director, as well as a coach for the Sussex Riptide community team. She works closely with Michele Davis as their programs benefit students across the Greater Milford School District. “We try to share ideas and collaborate the best we can so our programs continue to grow,” said Moorman. “It is awesome that our programs both received this award.”
Although SODE events like the Polar Bear Plunge and Over The Edge Fundraisers get large media attention, Moorman enjoys school activities such as the Respect Week Campaign. During this week, Banneker offers different activities to help support inclusion, awareness, and compassion of those who experience a disability. Activities include a banner signing with included pledge, friendship bracelet sales to donate proceeds back to SODE, RESPECT T-Shirt wearing, sticker support, respect gear sales, targeted school wide announcements and positive messages posted school wide.
Caesar Rodney High School, Thomas McKean High School and Middletown High School were also named National Banner Unified Champion Schools for the 2018-19 school year.
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