Learning, playing, dancing and graduating UNIFIED | A Blog Artcile from Autism Project

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Learning, playing, dancing and graduating UNIFIED - 06/10/13

June 10, 2013
By Joanne Quinn



A new era has begun in education. Actually, it’s been growing for four years in the halls of East Greenwich High School. Thanks to the leadership of the administration and faculty, the open minds and hearts of the students and the adoption of two programs, students with and without disabilities experienced daily life, academics, sports, art, theater, the Prom and graduation as one of the most unified communities ever.

Best Buddies, under the tireless leadership of Fran Healy, is a program designed to build friendships and understanding through one-to-one friendships.  It is a vital program at EG. For many years, students have been paired up and enjoyed ongoing experiences at school and in the community, getting to know each other’s strengths and challenges and building genuine friendships. For three years EG has supported Project Unified Sports (a program of Special Olympics) at the high school for Volleyball and the junior high and high school for Basketball. Here students with an intellectual disability play on a team with partners from their schools. The lessons learned both on and off the court are priceless.

Through participation in both programs, students got to know each other at different events, through texting, phone calls and other activities. Volleyball teammates experienced playing on a team, practicing, competing, eating lots of pizza and even winning two National Championships and a State Title. They also learned to stick together while traveling cross-country, how to make sure everyone remembered to pack all their stuff, how to balance personal fun to make sure everyone’s needs are met and how to support your friend and teammate on the court so everyone plays their best.

For the first time this year a unified Prom was piloted with the EG and LaSalle Best Buddies programs. Students from LaSalle escorted teens from EG to their prom. The goal was for them to go to prom and experience it just like everyone else and with no added adult supervision. Best Buddies provided social navigation support and encouraged their dates to enjoy the dinner, visit with their friends and most important dance the night away.

At the senior Sports Banquet members of the Unified Volleyball team were recognized with all the other sports teams. Then they received a standing ovation -- partly for their two national titles, but mostly for their amazing ability to truly play unified, a spirit and commitment instilled in them by two terrific coaches, Patty Carosotto and Dave Egan.

Then there was graduation this past Sunday. Time and again student speakers called out members of the Unified Volleyball team. Next, class advisor Mr. Boie framed his speech to the class he guided for four years to highlight how much their involvement and embracing of Best Buddies shaped their class and the future high school experience for many. He told them how proud he was of all of them for doing the right thing. Many of the Best Buddies were in the audience graduating beside their friends and classmates.

Beaming from all of the great speeches and heartfelt inclusion of everyone I stood to prepare myself to tape my son Patrick receiving his diploma. Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. The speaker said “Patrick James Quinn” and before he could move the entire senior class jumped to their feet and gave Pat a standing ovation.


 

There is great hope for everyone as this remarkable class takes off to take on the world and future generations begin to build their legacies learning, playing, dancing and graduating UNIFIED.

 

Going To Prom, Just Like Everyone Else

By Elizabeth McNamara Email the author May 19, 2013
East Greenwich Patch

EGHS students with disabilities attended EG's prom Friday together with some students from EG and La Salle.
 


Things are changing in the way students with intellectual disabilities experience high school. Case in point – last Friday night, five such students attended the East Greenwich High School prom without their parents or other adults as chaperones.

Instead, they went with high school dates, just like all the other students at the prom.

The scene unfolded as it was in backyards all across East Greenwich Friday afternoon, with impossibly lovely young women in bright-colored dresses and impeccably dressed young men in black formal wear smiling for endless photos.

It was the work of two students from East Greenwich – one from La Salle and one from EGHS – who were committed to the Best Buddies program and the newer Unified sports program. Best Buddies pairs people with developmental disabilities with typically developing peers; unified sports teams include disabled athletes and partner athletes, playing together.

Nikki Trupiano, who attends La Salle, is part of the school's Best Buddies program. Kim Whittaker has been a member of the EGHS Unified Volleyball team for the past two seasons and is involved in that school's Best Buddies group. 

Nikki said they came up with the idea after realizing that many students with developmental disabilities don't attend their proms because they would need some social supports. Nikki got some of her friends from La Salle to attend the EGHS prom with the EGHS students.

"A few months ago, Mrs. Quinn, Patrick's mom, told me that Patrick hadn't been invited to his prom last year and he really had no idea about the prom. There was a Best Buddies Prom, but it wasn't the same as his own prom," said
Trupiano. "We decided to start a program that I've been calling the Unified Prom ... so they could have a wonderful night full of dancing and fun."

Patch Article 

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