High school honored by Special Olympics
Dartmouth High School was celebrated on September 17 for its dedication to inclusion, as the school was named a National Banner Unified Champion School, as recognized by the Special Olympics.
The award is based on 10 standards focusing on unified sports — teams comprised of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities — inclusive youth leadership, whole school engagement, and the sustainability of these programs.
The unified sports program at Dartmouth High School, led by John Breault, Michael Cappello, and Kristen Baptiste, has grown from a 13 person track team to a track team with over 40 members, a bowling club, two basketball teams, and a unified music group for a total of more than 100 involved students.
Cappello launched Special Olympics at Dartmouth High School more than 20 years ago, and Capello and Breault launched the unified sports program five years ago.
Breault said that involvement extends beyond the students on teams to the fans who cheer at games, mentors, and friends -- and almost every student at the high school.
Breault’s own involvement with the Special Olympics dates back to when he was a student in the fifth grade. He worked with Cappello to support the Special Olympics when he was a student at Dartmouth High School himself, and continued that work when he returned as a teacher.
“The most important piece is seeing the kids smile,” Breault said. “When you’re in varsity sports, or a part of the band, or a theater group, you have your plays, and your concerts, and your games. But if you’re a special needs student, you have Special Olympics, and that’s one day a year.”
Breault said that the unified teams allow special needs students to have games and championships like all the other teams, and those students get chances to be in the limelight like they deserve.