Today’s Unified Champion Schools spotlight is on Old Bridge High School. Old Bridge Play Unify was one of the first Unified Champion School programs in the state. In fact, the Old Bridge Unified Basketball team played in the very first high school Unified Basketball Cup exhibition game in 2015! Since, Old Bridge Unified has competed in Unified soccer and basketball, sent youth leaders to Washington DC as Special Olympics advocates and was one of the first schools in New Jersey to earn the Unified Champion Schools National Banner Recognition in 2018.
Lauren Carroll came on board as the new Unified Club Adviser this year. She says, “the Unified program at Old Bridge High School was created by Karen Lewicki, who retired last year. Coming into an established, model UCS program was both an honor and a challenge, as the bar was set extremely high. It could have been bumpy, but these kids are absolute rockstars. Their attitudes on and off the court, and in and out of the classroom, are reflected throughout the whole school environment.”
The @OBplayunify Club consists of approximately 35 athletes and 40 partners. They meet once a week after school to participate in sports, arts, music and dance and team building activities. Unified athlete Stephanie Bordenabe says, “Unify has affected me in so many different ways. I’ve made unbreakable friendships and lifelong memories. Unify also showed me what I’d like to do with my life. It has made me a better person.”
In 2018, Old Bridge launched the Unified Generation class, as a way to have students plan and run the Unified Club during the school day. It is an elective class of about 20 students with different abilities. Carroll says, “The curriculum is made up of activities and objectives geared towards Unified Champion Schools Inclusive Youth Leadership skills and relationship building. The students are trained on what it means to be a leader and how to advocate for an inclusive mindset within their community. These students are our inclusion ambassadors, we look to them to step up and promote an environment of respect, tolerance, and unity both inside and out of school. “
This year, the club started a monthly “Unify Family Night Out”, where students can meet outside the confines of the school and socialize with their peers and family members. These “meet-ups” give the parents of the athletes the chance to meet the teammates and friends they are a spending time with, increasing the trust in the club and allowing us to expand our choice of activities.
“Play Unify at Old Bridge High School has created an Inclusion movement that resonates throughout the halls. It is an honor to be a part of such an inspiring program. With the help of my paraprofessional, Lisa Tonnisen, and all the administrators, we’ve been able to achieve so much already this year and I cannot wait to see what we can do in the future,” says Carroll. Unified Peer Nikki Hartell shares her belief in the power of Unified saying, “Unify became my family without me even realizing it. It happened so subtly that it went unnoticed until one day I couldn’t picture a day without seeing them, playing games, laughing, or just talking about life. Unify changed my life for the better. It has given me a direction on what I would like to do in college and helped me create friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Check out these great features below to learn a little more about what being a part of the #UnifiedGeneration really means at Old Bridge Play Unify: