Raymond S. Kellis High School in Arizona is setting an example for inclusive schools all over the country through its commitment to Special Olympics Unified Sports®. Inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities has been a priority of the school since its founding in 2005, and by working with Special Olympics Arizona and Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools®, Kellis has made that goal a reality.
In November 2018, Kellis High School was recognized for its extraordinary commitment to creating an inclusive environment and was honored as a Special Olympics Unified Banner School—a distinction given to schools that have demonstrated their commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence. Unified Champion Schools like Kellis implement inclusive practices through a three-component model that offers Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole School Engagement.
In July 2018, Kellis High School’s Unified Soccer team represented Special Olympics Arizona at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington. Students with and without intellectual disabilities took the field to display the power of inclusion through sport.
Unified Sports gives students with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play together on the same playing field, but the reach goes far beyond sports. By playing unified, students become more compassionate, patient, and confident. Unified programs are proven to change the climate of the school and the dynamic between students.
Unified Sports allows [Unified] partners and athletes to form those relationships, and then those relationships start to spill over into the rest of the population on our campus. You see those interactions and it’s contagious.
The devotion to inclusion shown by Kellis is a perfect example of how Unified Champion Schools programming, when embraced by the whole school, can lead to a more positive learning experience for students, staff and community members alike.