While athletes from around the world are competing for gold in China, Amsterdam High School sponsored an Olympic event of its own last week.
The first Unified Physical Education Olympics was held in the school gym, featuring nearly 20 teams competing in five events that were broadcast live on YouTube for all to see.
Unified Physical Education is a class in which a student without disabilities works one-to-one with a student with a disability to accomplish various tasks. Though this new course will not be officially launched in the AHS course catalogue until 2022-23, high school students have been piloting activities this school year. The Olympics was a way to celebrate what they have accomplished together to date and what lies ahead.
“This program is beneficial to all involved including myself,” said AHS PE teacher and Olympics organizer Jessica Verrigni. “Students are given the opportunity to socialize in a class that they normally would not get the opportunity to work with someone in. It opens the eyes of many, that no matter someone’s disability, they are capable of competing athletically.”
An athlete and partner (18 of each) participated in five events which included bowling, bocce, badminton, frisbee, and a basketball shoot-out within four divisions. Each division had 4-5 groups participate against one another during preliminary rounds earlier in the week. Final matches were played on Friday morning (February 11).
Some 20 volunteers including students, other PE teachers and classroom aides helped organize the event. T-shirts were sold and the high school raised money it will donate to the Special Olympics.
This event brought Unified Physical Education and the Unified teams into the spotlight in front of the entire community, Verrigni said.
“We hope to pack the stands with fans in the upcoming Unified seasons. The partners and athletes each bring something to the table that benefits the other. It is amazing to watch the relationships build not only in the gym but at school dances, games, pep rallies, in the cafeteria or hallway, wherever.”