Last month, Downers Grove South High School students Esther Crandell and Andrea Ramirez were selected to participate in Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Unified through Special Olympics.
Unified is a branch of Special Olympics focused on building inclusion and respect in middle schools, high schools and universities. Their mission is to raise awareness of inclusion, which will allow students to show respect towards their peers and enhance school experiences for all.
Crandell and Ramirez, joined by Unified Sponsor and District 99 physical therapist Sydney Oswald, received training upon their arrival and had the opportunity to speak to senators the following day. The topic of conversation with the senators was on the importance of sustaining Unified programs in public schools. Also, the students had time for sightseeing in our nation’s Capital.
“It was amazing to see the impact we made by sharing our experiences with the senators,” Crandell said. “Several senators said they will vote to sustain funding for Unified once the bill is passed.”
“Esther and Andrea had the opportunity to meet other high school leaders from across the country,” Oswald said. “They also learned new communications skills and the importance of advocacy.”
South High’s Unified organization is only in its first year and already provides basketball and soccer programs. The group is currently working on adding track to the line-up of athletic activities.
“My favorite part about being involved in Unified is playing basketball and making new friends,” Ramirez said.
Last November, Crandell and Ramirez presented and facilitated sessions during the Special Olympics Illinois state conference in Peoria. During their presentation, they shared highlights and best practices from hosting Respect Week at South High. The week consisted of hanging signage, passing out Unified swag items, and encouraging students to find opportunities to connect with other students. Unified will be hosting their second Respect Week from March 12-16.