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NORTHBORO — Algonquin Regional High School has received word from Special Olympics Massachusetts that it has been named one of ten schools from across the state to receive national banner recognition.
"I couldn't be more proud to be part of an amazing group of student athletes and their families who support them. We're proud to have a progam that is robust and worthy of recognition by Special Olympics," said Kevin Hausman, an Algonquin High science teacher and head coach of the Tomahawks' Unified Track and Field team.
"We started our unified track and field team seven years ago, and our unified basketball team four years ago," said Mr. Hausman.
A unified team is one in which students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities train and compete side by side as teammates. Algonquin, as have many schools across the state, has created opportunities for inclusive sports.
The primary activities to be considered for national banner recognition are that the school hosts two or more Special Olympics Unified Sports Teams, develops inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement and have sustainable programs.
Mr. Hausman praised the foresight of former Algonquin High Athletic Director Fran Whitten, who introduced unified track and field to the school, first as a co-op team with Westboro High.
The Tomahawks' Unified Track and Field team came close to winning the state championship a few years ago, finishing as runners-up.
The success of Algonquin's unified track and field shows in the participant numbers, now up to 50 students, with partners having passed an application process. "The students selected commit to the whole season and care genuinely about inclusion," Mr. Hausman said. "They are on the team to improve themselves and help their teammates."
Mr. Hausman said that an official unveiling of the national recognition banner is tentatively scheduled for November, perhaps coinciding with the school's annual fall pep rally. The banner may be displayed in the school lobby for a few weeks before the administration finds a permanent place in the gymnasium for it.
"This award recognizes the contributions of dozens of staff members and hundreds of students from now and going back to the last seven years," Mr. Hausman said. "No one person made this happen, it was really the school community which recognizes each individual's gift, talent and ability. With unified sports, the pride of being on a sports team can be realized by any student. Algonquin's dedicated coaches and aides ensure that each of our athletes is included while our teachers and staff create cheer tunnels to make our student-athletes feel like all-stars."
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