ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Kindness. Acceptance. Inclusion. Nowhere in Anne Arundel County is that more on display than in Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ Unified Sports programs and nowhere is it better showcased than at Annapolis and North County high schools.
For their consistent demonstration of inclusive practices, the two schools have been named 2022 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, an honor earned by only three schools in Maryland and 166 nationwide.
“We cannot truly be great until we include everyone,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Bedell said. “Annapolis and North County – and our athletics program as a whole – are shining examples of the power of inclusion and we should all endeavor to follow their lead.”
With a motto of “Choose to Include,” the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change and the creation of school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.
AACPS offers three Unified Sports programs throughout the year – tennis (fall), bowling (winter), and bocce (spring)– in which student-athletes with disabilities and their non-disabled peers work side-by-side in athletic competition.
The program allows all student-athletes to learn about and exhibit good sportsmanship, build positive self-esteem, learn sport-specific skills, improve physical fitness, foster new friendships, and develop and enhance the concept of teamwork.