By Jason Cohen
High School prepares students for college, but also shapes them into good people. Recently, Randolph High School was recognized for its efforts to educate its children about inclusion.
This school year, RHS was the recipient of the NJ State Special Olympic Exemplary ‘Play Unified’ school at a Special Olympics Awards Dinner at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village held Nov. 18. The Special Olympics New Jersey ‘Play Unified’ school partnership has provided more than 150 unified schools with grants to establish inclusive school clubs and unified sports initiatives.
“It was an incredible night and I am so proud to work with such great colleagues who have supported this program here at RHS,” said Principal Deborah Iosso. “It is so exciting to bring Special Olympics back to Randolph. It is priceless to watch our students unified in competition. Ms. McBreen and Ms. Mountjoy have gone above and beyond to provide our Special Olympics athletes with these amazing opportunities.”
According to the Special Olympics New Jersey website, “A Play Unified School integrates the three components of Special Olympics Unified Strategy for Schools, which include Unified Sports, inclusive clubs and whole school engagement, throughout the school culture, curriculum and student enrichment programming. Play Unified grants provide funding for schools to establish Play Unified student-led clubs and inclusive sports and social activities.”
A Play Unified award is given to a school that demonstrates a commitment to inclusion, acceptance, respect and dignity by integrating Special Olympics programs into their school and embracing the motto, “Play Unified, Live Unified.”
Theresa Cone, a member of the board of trustees for the Special Olympics New Jersey praised RHS at the ceremony.
“We recognize the administration and Play Unified team for realizing the unique gifts and potential in every student,” Cone said at the dinner. “As a first year Play Unified school they ran unified intramurals, organized a school wide respect week, and took a silver medal in the Shriver Cup bowling championship while their greatest and most enthusiastic fan, Principal Deborah Iosso cheered them on. Principal Iosso’s love for Special Olympics has inspired an entire community to become advocates for our athletes and for inclusion.”
Last year RHS got involved in this program under the direction of Brianne McBreen, transition coordinator.
“We plan to continue and expand the opportunities for our athletes to participate in Play Unified sports through the Special Olympics program,” Iosso said. “Participating in and hosting these types of events carry huge benefits for all involved. I always get so much more out of participating in Special Olympics than I could ever give back.”
Iosso noted the students enjoyed this experience and are looking forward to participating again.
“Unified sports gives everybody a chance to play, even kids that don’t usually play a sport,” said senior Greg Seymour.
“It’s cool because we have a chance to get medals. I never did anything like that before,” added junior Jacob Burg.