Recently, ESPN announced the ESPN Honor Roll for 2018 — a list of the top 30 schools from across the country — as part of its Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® National Recognition Program. On that list was Special Olympics Florida’s Unified Champion School, Seabreeze High School, located in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The aim of Unified Champion Schools is to incorporate Special Olympics sports, leadership and related activities — empowering the youth to be the agents of change in their communities. Thus, the focus shifts from a one-time event to a year-round movement of inclusion by the whole school. Seabreeze has accomplished this goal and more in the short time they have been involved in the program.
Anthony McLoughin, a Unified coach and teacher at Seabreeze High School, stated, “I feel that it is a great honor to have received this national recognition for our efforts.”
Vanessa Emerson and Anthony McLoughin, teachers at Seabreeze High School, started the Unified program at Seabreeze high school back in the 2013-2014 school year.
The program was started as a way to allow students with special needs to have the same opportunities that other students have. All students deserve the chance to interact with their peers, with or without disabilities.
“Vanessa and I are both extremely passionate about the population that we teach and wanted to get involved with Special Olympics,” McLoughin said. “Each year, we have continued to grow our school-based programs and add additional coaches and sports to serve more of our students. We have had great success with our Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams and have been able to be a part of many amazing experiences, including going to the Special Olympics USA Games this past summer in Seattle.”
Seabreeze’s Unified basketball team brings home the bronze medal at the Special Olympics USA Games.
While Seabreeze High School currently has their own Unified teams, they also participate in anti-bullying campaigns school wide such as Spread the Word to End the Word®, a campaign that asks people to pledge to stop using the derogatory R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.
Inclusion also goes beyond sports at Seabreeze High School, as one of their Unified coaches has started a program that pairs students with disabilities with the general population. They meet once a month, so those who don’t participate in athletics can still join the movement.
John Coppa, a teacher and Unified coach, said, “We try to create an environment of inclusion at Seabreeze, and we are lucky to have a student population that really does care. With Unified sports they get to interact with peers that they would normally never interact with. Watching them build relationships with their peers puts a smile on my face. Our special needs students deserve the right to play sport as does every student.”
Learn more about Unified Champion Schools.