CVU receives national recognition for inclusion

Champlain Valley Union High School last week received the highest honor for unifying students with and without disabilities in activities, being named a Special Olympics Vermont Unified Champion School. 

The school is the only one in Vermont to receive this national recognition in 2020. It will be presented with a banner to hang in the school and be included on a list of other schools from around the country that have achieved the distinction. 

The award is based on meeting national standards of excellence in inclusion, advocacy and respect in the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program. About 80 Vermont schools are currently participating in the program. 

“We are so proud of the entire CVU community for being named a Special Olympics National Unified Champion Banner School,” Principal Adam Bunting said. “We strive to be a leader in inclusion and equity for all, and this recognition shows that we are setting a positive example for schools across the entire country.”

CVU was awarded for its commitment to inclusion through unified sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement, and for having a plan to sustain inclusive activities into the future.

CVU started inclusive school activities in 1999. It offers unified basketball, bocce, bowling and snowshoeing, with about 85 students participating each year. In 2016, CVU won the Unified Basketball State Championship, then travelled to Seattle for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, bringing home a gold medal.

Students have also participated in the Penguin Plunge to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Vermont. 

CVU’s inclusive, student-led CVUnified Club was instrumental in the school achieving champion school status.

“Last year, a proud father wrote to tell me of his son’s experience while a student at CVU,” Special Olympics Vermont President and CEO Missy Siner Shea said. “As an eighth-grader, he got involved with the Penguin Plunge, and in high school, evolved into a student leader while playing on and coaching one of the unified sports teams. He then carried that volunteer spirit with him through college and beyond. His dad credits Special Olympics Vermont and CVU’s Unified Champion School efforts with helping his son find his moral center. 

“This work we do with schools isn’t just about helping students with disabilities. It is about creating a culture of inclusion where those students can help others.”