At 7 p.m. Friday, March 8, the Scarborough Unified Basketball teams were presented with a banner representing their honorable recognition as a National Unified Champion School from ESPN Special Olympics. In addition to a night full of joyous celebration of unity and pride, members of the Unified Sports teams competed in special games against the Scarborough Police Department, Scarborough Fire Department, parents and staff members at Scarborough Middle School and High School.

Special Olympics defines Unified Champion schools as those that promote inclusivity and the breaking down of barriers between students with and without intellectual disabilities in a safe and accepting school environment.

Unified Sports at Scarborough schools promotes equity and friendships, the writers say. Contributed / Photo by Eric Tirrell

Unified Sports have been spreading throughout the country, and made their landfall at Scarborough High School in 2019. Unified Sports pair athletes with developmental disabilities with partners who don’t have developmental disabilities. The athletes bring the passion and the energy, and the partners bring the guidance and the spirit.

In an interview, Coach Albert McCormack gave an inside look at Unified Sports at Scarborough High School. McCormack repeatedly emphasized: “It’s not about winning or losing, but having a good time with your friends.” He also stressed that the most important quality in a unified athlete is “wanting to be part of a team.” “Scoring the basket or hitting the perfect shot is exciting, but making that amazing bounce pass or setting up that play is next level,” he said.

Unified Sports has expanded in recent years, with McCormack leading the charge for more sports to be included in Scarborough. Most recently bocce ball has joined the mix, and there is hope for an expansion into a Unified Robotics Team. Unified Bocce Ball has attracted new students to the program, among them is Unified Helper Emerson Johnson. “Oftentimes in school, students find themselves around the same small group of students; Unified Sports are a great opportunity to meet new classmates who many don’t have the chance to interact with otherwise,” Johnson said. “Unified Sports offer such a welcoming environment and provide great new experiences and memories.”

The designation of Scarborough High School and Middle School as a National Unified Champion School is a high honor representing Scarborough’s dedication to the promotion of equity in schools. When prompted for any final thoughts on Unified Sports at Scarborough, McCormack stated: “I think there’s a lot of intangibles with Unified, and one of the amazing things about it is that it has ripple effects in the community.” He added,  “When you start talking about inclusion, you start talking about embracing people’s differences … (it) allows you to see the beauty in other people that perhaps you wouldn’t interact with, and that’s something the world needs more of.”

Jack Murnane and Calvin Venegoni-Ranger are Scarborough students.

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