PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. (WMBD) — Special Olympics Illinois said it’s activating area school districts to promote positive attributes for all students.
From pumpkin carving to bowling, students of all abilities at Peoria Heights High School mingle together.
“We’ve added a unified bowling team,” said Kasey Miller, Adapted PE Consultant for SEAPCO. “We’re doing unified track. We’ve started a unified club here. They were pumpkin carving yesterday. The staff here is just embracing all of these kids and it’s just so cool to see the impact it’s had here.”
Special Olympics Illinois said there are more than 325 schools like this one across the state rallying for respect. The strategy works through three components: inclusive sports, youth leadership and advocacy, and whole-school engagement.
“When all three of those pieces are taken in, adapted, and brought into a school bully goes down,” said Jillian Hosteny, Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives for Special Olympics Illinois. “Students want to go to school. Higher levels of engagement. sometimes we see higher test scores, but the overall survey says school is a better place to be when we are unified.”
“Students repeat what they see,” said Hosteny. “So when we are accepting of all students in our school they continue to accept. They continue to grow and it creates a better environment overall for every person in that building.”
Kasey Miller works for the Special Education Association of Peoria County (SEAPCO). She’s worked as an adapted PE consultant for the last 13 years. She said she works to directly integrate students of all abilities through unified sports.
“This is my passion,” said Miller. “I love PE and sports of course because of my title, but we have started even doing things outside the PE and sports arena. We’re trying to get unified FFA or unified clubs going. And just seeing the relationships that these kids have with each other has changed culture and climate in schools and that’s the coolest thing I’m seeing happen.”
Hosteny said Miller epitomizes their hope for leadership to attract whole school participation.
“In 2019, we had no schools signed on,” said Hosteny. “We now have almost 15. 10 of which came from Kasey. Her passion, her drive…she’s done so much for us.”
Special Olympics Illinois is gearing up for its 2022 Polar Plunge. Details on the “Be Bold, Get Cold” Fundraiser will be available soon.
Interested in becoming a Unified Champion School? Complete the School Commitment Form and a staff member from SOILL will contact you. Unified Champion Schools liaison is Jennifer Kelso, who can be reached at 847-207-8997.
SOILL Social Channels
LinkedIn: Special Olympics Illinois