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Special Olympics recognizes Trail Ridge for inclusive sports

Fourth school in state to be named National Unified Champion School
SVVSD Education Services
Photo by Matt Maenpaa

Trail Ridge Middle School is the fourth school in the state to be named a Special Olympics National Unified Champion School.

A Special Unified Champion School demonstrates its commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence developed by a national panel of leaders from the Special Olympics and the education community. Principal Eddie Cloke said that the accomplishment means a lot to the middle school.

“From a basic level, it is recognition for the hard work and dedication we have put into our Unified program,” he said. “More importantly though, it is the culmination of our goal to provide opportunities for all students. We are proud of the fact that we were the first middle school in SVVSD to provide a Unified program and a catalyst for the other middle level schools to be involved as well. It is really great to see the program grow in our District and the support that has been provided.”

He added that the school’s original intent wasn’t to receive this recognition, but to be a place where all students could thrive. He said the recognition is encouragement to continue this work.

According to the Special Olympics, a Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the students body and staff.

Primary activities include Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. That last attribute is what Cloke believes is Trail Ridge’s biggest strength.

“Not only do we have teachers and staff members who recognize the importance of this program and fully support our efforts, we also have an absolutely amazing student body who are the key for this to be successful,” he said. “Our students volunteer their time and provide the energy needed for our Unified program and all of the facets that come with it to shine. I could not be more proud of each of them.”

Banner Unified Champion Schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities. Schools reapply for banner status every four years.

Cloke said the most important part of the program is the impact it has had on students.

“In my opinion, one of the greatest things about our Unified program and our efforts for inclusion is that it causes each individual to think outside of themselves,” he said. “And, in my experience, I believe there is not a group of people who benefit from learning to think outside of themselves more than middle school students. It has been great to see the remarkable things our students who have been involved in this program grow from, and I know these lessons will impact them for many years to come.”

Arrowhead Elementary School, Eaglecrest High School and Grandview High School are the other Colorado schools recognized as National Unified Champion Schools.