CLINTON TWP. - The North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District is launching a Unified Sports program through the Special Olympics New Jersey Play Unified School Partnership, the district announced on Monday.
The program will bring together students with and without disabilities to play basketball as a team this March, with track potentially added later.
While some students who have a disability are able to fully participate in current school activities and will continue to do so, participation in currently offered activities may not be possible for all students who have a disability, according to a news release.
"The North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District is excited about participating in the New Jersey Play Unified initiative," said Mary Pat Publicover, Director of Special Services for the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District. "Affording students the opportunities to engage in youth leadership, whole school activities and sporting events will foster a positive inclusive culture."
The high school district received a grant of $10,000 from Special Olympics New Jersey for the 2016-17 school year to launch the Unified Sports program at both high schools.
According to the Special Olympics New Jersey website (http://www.sonj.org/unified-sports.html), unified sports was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
"Unified Sports will provide our students with an opportunity to participate on a competitive, yet supportive, sports team with their peers," said Jillian Hoolihan, Special Education Teacher and Unified Sports Coordinator at North Hunterdon High School. "Students will be working with their typical peers on and off the court during games and practices.
"During times in which students are not playing on the court, they will create posters and cheer on their fellow team members. Unified Sports is just another opportunity North Hunterdon and Voorhees provide our special needs population to form meaningful relationships and memories that we hope will last them past their high school career,"
Both North Hunterdon and Voorhees High Schools will have their own Play Unified basketball team. The teams will consist of about five to six students with disabilities and five to six students without disabilities. Jake Ruscher will coach the North Hunterdon team and Renee Colangelo will coach the Voorhees team.
The teams from North Hunterdon and Voorhees High Schools will play against each other as well as against Delaware Valley Regional High School during the month of March.
Practices are underway with the first game scheduled for March 8 at 5 p.m. when North Hunterdon will play Voorhees in the main gym at North Hunterdon High School.
The remaining games will be:
- March 15 - North Hunterdon vs. Voorhees at 5 p.m. at Voorhees
- March 22 - North Hunterdon vs. Delaware Valley at 5 p.m. at Delaware Valley
- March 29 - Voorhees vs. Delaware Valley at 5 p.m. at Voorhees
The Play Unified basketball season will end with the teams competing in the Schriver Cup Championship in April at Princeton University. The Championship brings together high school and college Unified Sports programs throughout New Jersey to compete against one another for the Schriver Cup trophy, named in honor of the founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Schriver.
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