SHS Student Working to Break Down Barriers

Searcy (LP) Finding a way to bring regular education students and special education students together can be challenging for high schools.  Special Olympics has resolved this issue with what is called “Unified Schools.”  These certain schools work with regular education students and special education students to give them the opportunity to connect and play sports together. There are many Unified Schools across Arkansas and the country, and when it was brought to Searcy Senior Rees Ridout’s attention that Searcy was not one, he wanted that to change.  Mykala Delk is the co-founder of Project Unify and has helped organize and create an energetic atmosphere for the new club.  Ridout and Delk have been volunteering at Special Olympics for the past few years and have always enjoyed being volunteers.  Ridout’s father is on the Searcy Special Olympics board and when Jennifer Grantham, one of the coordinators, told him she would like to see Searcy become a Unified School, Rees thought this would be a great way to put his love for Special Olympics into action.  Another one of Ridout’s inspirations to start this club was being in an integrated P.E. class with the special education students.  Through this experience he says, “I enjoyed working with them more than being with my own peers in the class and it turned out being really fun.”

Founder, Rees Ridout and member, Mykala Delk

Founder, Rees Ridout and Co-Founder, Mykala Delk

Ridout contacted Mrs. Webb, a teacher at Searcy High School, and asked if she would be willing to be the teacher sponsor for the Project Unify club he wanted to start.  She was more than welcome to be included in this new journey for Searcy High School, as she has had experience with the program because of her daughter’s involvement with the National Unified Softball team several years ago.  Ridout says that the basis of the club is to, “Break down the barriers between the mentally disabled students and the highly functioning students.”  The club is a combination of athletes, special education students and partners, regular education students that unify together as one team.  Mrs. Webb believes that through this club, “They will form friendships, but more importantly they will learn to respect others that are different.”  Since the club is brand new to Searcy, they are starting with a basketball team; however, as the club continues to grow Mrs. Webb hopes it will expand into many more sports.  The first event they have planned is a basketball tournament at Ouachita Baptist University on February 21st, and they encourage Searcy High students to come out and show support for the team.

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