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The Penndulum

The Penndulum

Pennridge High School Unified Sports: Building Community Through Inclusive Athletics

Basketball inclusion night for Pennridge Unified

Team sports have always brought people together, but Unified Pennridge takes it to a whole new level. The high school club, Unified Pennridge, provides a chance for students, both with and without disabilities, to come together and participate in sports and club activities. For the past five years, Unified Pennridge has been dedicated to fostering connections and building an inclusive community while allowing everyone to be part of a team.

Pennridge has two Unified Sports teams: bocce ball and track and field. With a bocce ball, each player has two balls called bocce. These balls are thrown or rolled to get as close as possible to the pallino, a smaller ball that is the target. Track and field includes contests based on running, jumping, and throwing skills. These two teams offer shared sports training and competition experience to students with disabilities while promoting friendships and understanding along the way. With bocce ball during the winter and track and field during the spring, Unified Pennridge participates in several other activities throughout the school year. This includes the Polar Plunge, hosting the April Showers event for Special Olympics, traveling for championships, having parties and fundraisers, and providing a unified physical education class.

While these teams help support young team members with intellectual disabilities, they also support players without disabilities. Emma Casey, a high school Senior in Unified Pennridge, explained that this program has made her a better person. “Being involved with this club has brought out a completely new side of me and gave me a passion I never knew I had.” Christine Fehnel, a Unified coach and life skills support teacher who has been on board with the program since 2019, said, “It has been very encouraging to see the number of students who come out and want to be involved.” Sharon Fusco, who has worked alongside Fehnel and James since the beginning, believes that Unified Sports “affect all kids” who participate, saying, “Inside we are all the same, we all want to be accepted, acknowledged, seen, and valued, I think we do a really good job of that here.”

Unified Sports teams have been implemented around the world. According to the Special Olympics organization, 8,300 schools are participating in Unified Sports nationwide. As many as 19.5 million young people are involved, allowing our society to break down stigmas and stereotypes in a fun way. In 2020, Pennridge became a National Banner Unified Champion School by demonstrating a commitment to inclusion by meeting ten standards of excellence. Just last year, The bocce team attended the state championship in Hershey, PA, while the track team also went to the state championship. Unified Sports are more than just games; they’re reshaping the high school sports scene while creating bonds beyond the playing field. Unified Pennridge Sports is building a community where everyone is valued and has a chance to be a part of the team.

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About the Contributor
Kelsey Hunsberger, Student Writer
Kelsey Hunsberger, Grade 12. Interests/hobbies include traveling, working in personal and memory care, reading, working with children, and hanging out with friends and family. Kelsey plans to attend college in the fall at West Chester University to hopefully study psychology and other social sciences.

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