It was an exciting day for the Trojans at Mayfield High School on Friday as the entire school gathered together in the gymnasium to cheer on their peers during the annual unified basketball game. The game marks a ceremonious day of inclusion for the student athletes in the Unified Champion Schools Division of Special Olympics who participate in the basketball game and those in the stands cheering them on. The game exemplifies inclusion, sportsmanship, and friendship at Mayfield High School.
During the 2020-2021 school year, Mayfield was recognized by ESPN and the Special Olympics as one of the top 5 schools in the nation for its inclusion out of more than 9,000 participating schools. Mayfield plays multiple unified sports including basketball and kickball. They also have a unified garden, a unified PE class, and two unified clubs called “Unified ENLACE” and “Where Diversity Grows.”
When you walk down the halls at Mayfield, you can see how inclusive it is. General ed students go out of their way to give high fives or say hi to students with disabilities. Students from ENLACE, soccer, boys’ and girls' basketball, band, choir, AFROTC, the Mayfield Magnified club, Yearbook Club, student government, FCCLA, GSA, baseball, agriculture classes, and science classes partner together to create the largest club on campus. All of the above groups and clubs were involved in planning and participating in the basketball game and the ESPN Top 5 celebration.
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is a program aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. With sports as the foundation, the three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.
This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners. What a Unified Champion School “looks like” can vary greatly from school to school, based on the needs, goals, schedules and other factors unique to each school; but the basic building blocks remain the same.
Students at Mayfield (and across NM) pledge inclusion every year by signing a large banner with the pledge on it.
Inclusion pledge: “I pledge to look for the lonely, the isolated, the left out, the challenged, and the bullied. I pledge to overcome the fear of difference and replace it with the power of inclusion. I choose to include!”