The Power of Inclusion

Today, Chris is helping his fellow students in class at Clovis North High School. After completing his work, Chris bounces from group to group checking in on his classmates. Chris has grown significantly socially and academically in a short amount of time due to his participation in Special Olympics Unified Soccer.

This August, Clovis Unified School District and the Tri-River Athletic Conference, in partnership with Special Olympics Northern California, kicked off their inaugural Unified Soccer league. Special Olympics Unified Sports is an inclusive sports opportunity for students with and without disabilities to participate as equals on the same school team, thus benefiting and unifying the entire campus. Chris enrolled in soccer and began playing for Clovis North High School.

Teachers noticed changes in Chris immediately. Chris went from socially struggling to confidently engaging with his peers. For the first time, Chris is part of a team. Being part of a team meant that he was treated with respect by his peers because he was part of something bigger. Chris’s teacher Roman Gonzalez said, “Being part of a team made him shine and that is all driven by peer engagement.”

Giving students like Chris an opportunity to shine is why we provide Unified Sports programs. Chris’ family and teachers are thrilled with the changes. It’s more than pushing a ball down the field, it’s about being given the chance to be included and show what you can do. Gaining confidence is a skill that Chris will carry with him his whole life. We are looking forward to seeing Chris compete in basketball in the spring.