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Celebrating Differences- Pembroke’s Unified Basketball Team

Celebrating Differences- Pembroke’s Unified Basketball Team

 

The MIAA and Special Olympics have joined forces forming a Unified Sports division, which is an opportunity for students with and without intellectual disabilities to UNIFY on fields and courts across Massachusetts.  Inclusive sports and fitness activities provide an opportunity for young people to learn skills together and celebrate each other’s similarities rather than differences. Unified Sports programs bridge the gap between athletes with and without disabilities and provide all students a unique opportunity in high school athletics. 

 

After hearing about the successes from local participating high schools, Pembroke High School Assistant Principal, Kristen Kelley jumped at the chance to get involved.  As a strong proponent of students in both our PACE and Transition Programs,  she felt that it just seemed like the right group of students and the right time to create this team.   The team set out to promote inclusion, develop leadership skills, and build toward systemic change one game at a time and they generated tons of excitement from faculty and student-athletes alike.

 

Ms. Kelley reports that creating this team was one of the best decisions she has made during her career.  The Pembroke High School Unified Basketball team has successfully completed its very first Unified Basketball season and what a season it was!  

 

These students, many of whom had never played basketball before not only united as a team but thrived on the court.  For some of them, this was their first time joining a team, and wearing a Titans uniform for the very first time was extra special. This team held their heads high each time they walked onto the court.  At away games these students represented Pembroke High School with outstanding sportsmanship by cheering for the opposing team, shaking their pom-poms on the sidelines, and bringing their energy for the entire game.  

 

At home games, the Pembroke High School community came out in full Titan force, packing the stands and creating electricity in the gym that could rival the NBA Playoffs.  Our team is ever grateful for the fan support.  We can’t put into words how special it was for these players and their families to feel fully included.  

 

As the season comes to a close, our athletes are already asking about future Unified Sports.  Although it was a wonderful season for the athletes, it was truly a rewarding experience for the partners as well.  Their commitment to our team was remarkable, forging new relationships and building their own set of skills. The true magic of unified sports was witnessing the organic friendships that have developed between our students, regardless of disability.

 

Finally, our volunteer coaching staff’s dedication to the team was incredible.  Juggling teaching and family responsibilities while riding buses to away games and squeezing in practices each week, their efforts will be the footprint for future seasons, no doubt. 

 

We are truly unified and we can do anything!  Go, Titans! 




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