جمادى الأولى 17, 1435 | North America: Washington

Unified - On and Off the Field!

By Chara McElfish

The Nathan Hale H.S and Cleveland H.S Unified Soccer teams take to the arcade!

While coaching a Unified soccer team at Nathan Hale I was inspired on a daily basis by the sportsmanship the players exhibited. People with and without disabilities trained together, played together, comforted each other through losses, and celebrated big wins. Even more inspiring than the sportsmanship were the genuine friendships that developed off the field. While I thought the team was providing a sports and social opportunity for everyone, it actually provided a mere introduction to these opportunities - once they were teammates, students became friends. Some of the most valuable experiences blossomed as a result of the team, but had nothing to do with soccer. They went on trips to the mall, movie days, and school football games, plays, and dances. At the end of the soccer season, the team voted to spend our fundraising dollars to take a camping trip to a theme park. The students continue planning group trips - even graduated students return from across the state to reunite with their teammates. While they didn't earn a championship title, they walked away with something else - real friendships that saw past abilities and disabilities.

About Chara McElfish: I work at Special Olympics Washington as the Manager of Youth & Education. Before this year, I taught Special Education for six years and advised our high school's Project UNIFY club and coached the Unified Soccer team. I am loving my new role as an advocate for inclusion, unity, respect, and friendship among ALL young people. I'm most passionated about seeing more schools experience the incredible ripple effects of Project UNIFY!
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