By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The mood at Shrewsbury High School (SHS) on Nov. 19 was celebratory as the school officially received a National Banner Recognition from the organization Special Olympics. As such, SHS was designated as Special Olympics Unified Champion School for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students of all abilities.
Patti Doherty, director of schools and youth engagement, presented the official recognition on behalf of Special Olympics Massachusetts.
“All schools are eligible to apply for this special honor and you have to fulfill 10 national standards…they are one of 16 schools in Massachusetts [to receive the honor]…,” Doherty explained before the ceremony. “One hundred forty seven schools nationwide, including Massachusetts, have [received the award], so it’s a really prestigious honor to be given this. They have worked really hard and we are really proud of Shrewsbury.”
During the ceremony, students Ryan Sande, Jake MacIsaac, Matthew Frost and John Considine explained the tenets of the program which are inclusive youth leadership, inclusive sports and whole school engagement.
Kathy LaRoche, SHS former special education director, who was also instrumental in bringing the program to Shrewsbury, was the guest speaker.
She said that the program began in 2014 with 14 participants in a unified track and field team.
”Interest and collaboration from the community grew with Mr. Andy MacIsaac leading a successful fundraising effort to bring a unified basketball team to Shrewsbury High School as well,” she noted.
“Teachers became coaches and students became athletes and partners student council started to support the games…SHS coaches brought their entire teams to watch the games; buses from extended day brought hundreds of students from the elementary grades to games with signs and banners…” LaRoche added. “This past year, 86 students were on the unified track team. So this little idea that got started with 14 students became all this.”
Christine Juetten, co-president of the Shrewsbury Education Foundation (SEF), also spoke at the ceremony where she announced that the SHS Unified Club will be the recipient of this year’s Community Service Award. The award will be presented during the 2020 Annual Awards, Recognitions and Fundraising Dinner to be held Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.
“SEF couldn’t be more proud to announce that this year’s Community Service Award is being presented to the SHS Unified Club as an amazing example of leadership and unwavering dedication to our community and the Shrewsbury Public Schools,” Juetten remarked.