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The Special Olympics of Colorado partners with School District 11 to expand inclusive sports programs

Starting in the 2023-2034 school year, 4 high schools will offer sports to students of all abilities.
Posted at 7:15 PM, Jul 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-25 21:15:13-04

COLORADO SPRINGS— The Special Olympics of Coloradois partnering with School District 11 in Colorado Springs to bring more inclusive programs into schools.

The Unified Sports Program connects children with intellectual disabilities with student-athletes. Starting in the 2023-2034 school year, Coronado, Doherty, Mitchell, and Palmer High School will offer sports to students of all abilities.

Students will be able to sign up for bowling, basketball, and track.

Trevor Newton is a preschool teacher at Will Rogers Elementary School in District 11. His goal is for every student to feel like they belong.

"It's totally normal for child disabilities to be included in a sport. It's just not something to even take a second glance at. Of course they're out there. Because that's what we do in District 11. Every child has to succeed. Every child has the opportunity to participate”, Newton said.

The Special Olympics will help provide uniforms, equipment, and transportation. The group is planning to expand these types of programs into middle and elementary schools over the next few years.

“Getting a basketball league going, a bowling league going so that all high schools can compete with each other,” Sutton said.

Chaka Sutton is the Chief Outreach Officer for Special Olympics of Colorado.

“Anybody who can think back to high school, when you're in sports it's nothing like that cross-town rivalry, and bringing that cross-town rivalry feel to a unified program or a unified basketball team within the school district is outstanding,” Sutton said.

Davarshi Ghosh is a Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee member. He goes to Rock Canyon High School and is a part of their Unified Sports Program.

“It's really nice to have a program because including everybody makes them feel special. Having just games for them, like hosting basketball games. I really liked it and that we have a program like this in our school,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh enjoys volunteering and creating a safe environment for every student at his school.

“It gives me actually a sense of inner peace. I actually feel happy volunteering and I happily feel happy being in this environment because as you know, it's a safe environment. We're all working towards one goal,” Ghosh said.

The goal is more inclusivity. Like Ghosh, Marisol Shukie is also a Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee member. She is a junior at Regis Jesuit High School and began volunteering with the Special Olympics when her sister Nadia was born.

“Ever since my younger sister was born, when I was five, she has had Down syndrome. Ever since then, I've grown up and I'm still involved with Special Olympics,” Shukie said.

Shukie said having inclusive programs in school is extremely important for all students.

“You get to see people with and without disabilities that I usually don't see in the classroom and you get to see that side of it. It's really nice because I also get to know that people like my younger sister are able to play with others. It's really cool,” Shukie said.

Shukie hopes that through programs like Unified, all students, including her sister, will get the chance to play competitive sports.

“I hope she has the same experience as I would with my sports and also just feel genuinely included and just have a good time,” Shukie said.

The Special Olympics of Colorado is planning to expand these types of programs into middle and elementary schools over the next few years.

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