Home News HVCHS is a Unified Champion School!

HVCHS is a Unified Champion School!

by Kim Robinson

Hopewell Valley Central High School recently learned that it is one of only two schools in New Jersey to be recognized by Special Olympics North America as a “Special Olympics Unified Champion School.” The award was given based on HVCHS’s inclusive practices, featuring collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® builds on Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, experiences, and impacts to shape a generation that welcomes everyone.

According to HVCHS Principal Patricia Riley, HoVal’s journey to becoming a Unified Champion School began several years ago when Athletic Director Tripp Becker and Coach Chris Fossel introduced Unified Track to the high school. That Unified Track team now represents New Jersey at national and international competitions, and the unified athletics offerings have since expanded to include Unified Soccer and Unified Basketball.   

Photo by Kim Robinson.

According to the Special Olympics website, the National Unified Champion School program is aimed at promoting “social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change in K–12 schools and across college campuses.” With sports as the foundation, the three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance – school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.

This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners. What a Unified Champion School “looks like” can vary greatly from school to school, based on the needs, goals, schedules and other factors unique to each school; but the basic building blocks remain the same. 

Riley explained that HVCHS has created multiple groups and provided social opportunities over the last few years to foster friendships among all students, with and without disabilities, noting that at HVCHS, inclusivity is a priority.

On Thursday night, the HoVal Central High School administration, staff, parents, and students in the program celebrated their accomplishment with a buffet dinner, complete with a DJ spinning hits, a photo booth, and inspiring words from Principal Riley. 

Superintendent Treece and other school leaders also attended the celebration, joining many teachers, aides, and others who work with the students.  Congratulations to all for this wonderful accomplishment!

From the Editor: Wordpress is being very uncooperative with the photo attributions. The photo with the “smile laugh love” sign is by Kim Robinson. The feature and group photo are by Mike Schwartz. You can find more photos of the event at MikeSchwartzPhoto. Thanks so much to both Kim and Mike for the coverage of this event.

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MercerMe is the only hyperlocal, independent, online news outlet serving Hopewell Valley in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Contact us: [email protected] 

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