Fox Chapel Area High School has been selected as a 2019 National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics. This prestigious honor is given by the international headquarters of Special Olympics to only a small number of schools that demonstrate a commitment to meaningful inclusion and quality Unified Champion Schools programming.
These designated schools demonstrate a commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence. Those standards are centered around inclusion, acceptance, and respect and were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
Approximately 125 schools throughout the country were honored with this recognition for 2019, and only two are from Pennsylvania. Fox Chapel Area High School is the first school in Allegheny County to ever receive this designation.
According to an email from the President and CEO of Special Olympics Pennsylvania Matthew Aaron, the recognition is a “testament of what each of you, the coaches, staff, and your students, do in your school community every day. … Your high school has an enriching and nurturing climate which exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff.”
Additionally, in early September, Fox Chapel Area High School was named to the Special Olympics – ESPN Honor Roll for 2019. This is a list of the top 34 schools from across the country, chosen as part of ESPN’s Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program. According to ESPN, “The aim of Unified Champion Schools is to incorporate Special Olympics sports, leadership and related activities that empower the youth to be the agents of change in their communities. Thus, the focus shifts from the events to that of a whole school movement for inclusion.”
According to Fox Chapel Area School District’s Director of Special Education and Pupil Services Tim Mahoney, the award is a tribute to the entire school community, including students, staff, administrators, and parents.
“I am so incredibly excited and proud of this designation,” he said. “This is another example of how inclusive our students, staff, and community are, and how collaboration enables us to provide the best experiences for our Fox Chapel Area families.”
Of note, Fox Chapel Area is the first school district in Allegheny County to have a Unified Track team which was established during the 2018-2019 school year. The high school also has had a Unified Bocce team since the 2017-2018 school year. These teams include students with and without disabilities and these athletes work side by side in both training and competition.
A special celebration will be held at Fox Chapel Area High School later this fall where the school will be receiving the Unified Champion Schools national banner.