Education

Published on October 9th, 2018 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Harbison West Elementary School receives national recognition from Special Olympics

IRMO –Harbison West Elementary School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, has received national recognition from Special Olympics for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities.

Harbison West Elementary School is one the first elementary schools in South Carolina to receive this distinction.  They were presented with a banner to hang in their school during a special assembly on October 4.  They will also be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status.

“This honor of being nationally recognized means so much to the Harbison West family,” said co-founders of Project Au-Some, Bethany Reilly and Breanna Lamprey.  “We are incredibly proud to have built a culture of empathy, understanding and acceptance within, which is genuinely felt by all who walk through our doors.  It is quickly apparent that you are entering a community of learners who are accepting of all, no matter their size, shape, or color. We are all different, yet together we are Harbison West Elementary school, and we will continue to be the change needed for acceptance of all.”

“To be able to say you are a Banner School is to say that you are the best of the best.  It says you have challenged yourselves to make social and climate changes for the betterment of the whole school community.  You have made a commitment to inclusion and have reached a standard of excellence,” said Barry Coates, CEO, Special Olympics South Carolina.

As of Spring 2018, there are 19 Banner Unified Champion Schools in South Carolina. In the first year, the process was open to only high schools.  Last year, the process opened to middle schools and now elementary schools are also invited to apply for this distinguished recognition.  There are 282 schools participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in South Carolina, as part of more than 6,000 schools across the country engaged in the program.  Special Olympics has a global goal of creating 10,000 Unified Champion Schools by 2020.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.  This model has been proven, through research, to be an effective and replicable means to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff.  A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence.  These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.

“I am inspired daily by the students and teachers involved with inclusive activities at Harbison West Elementary School such as Project Au-some,” said Dr. Angie Slatton, School District Five Director of Special Services.  “It is amazing to watch these students continue these practices as they are progressing through District Five schools. We are blessed in School District Five to work with teachers and students that choose to make a difference for their school families each and every day.”

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