DOWNEY – Warren High School was honored Tuesday by ESPN and Unified Champion Schools for being named a national Special Olympics Unified Champion School.
This prestigious national recognition has named Warren one of five “ESPN Top 5” Banner Schools in the country for their strides in social inclusion.
ESPN and representatives from the Special Olympics were present to provide Warren with this national designation. Also joining the Warren Bears for this celebration was former Olympic ice-skater Michelle Kwan, ESPN SportCenter host Neil Everett and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.
The pep-rally style ceremony was led by Diego and Karen, two Warren High School students who have been a part of Warren’s inclusion revolution.
ESPN’s Everett took the mic, revealing his “Bear Cave” shirt, while hyping up the crowd. He then introduced Olympian Kwan who congratulated Warren for creating an environment of inclusion on campus, referencing that “she sees first-hand the impact that the Special Olympics has on thousands of lives.”
“What you guys have done is so special. You’re pioneers of inclusion,” exclaimed Everett as he addressed the crowd during the ceremony. “I think the world would be a better place if the world was more like Warren.”
Warren High School principal Laura Rivas then took the stage to speak to the crowd followed by Downey Unified Board of Education President Nancy Swenson and Assemblymember Garcia.
Garcia shared that she made a special trip from the Capitol that morning to make it to the event, presenting Principal Rivas with an Assembly Resolution in honor of the school’s national designation.
Beginning the effort of creating a unified campus nearly 10 years ago, Warren has bridged the gap between the general education population and students with special needs.
A club called Teen Connection was created by Warren’s Christine Spino to establish a social forum where all students could come together to form bonds and establish relationships that would go well beyond the classroom. This club and the Warren campus celebrate inclusion in all school-wide events making the entire student body a part of dances, games, lunch rallies, assemblies, movie nights and talent shows.
The strides to unify the campus have traveled into the classroom and within extracurricular activities, creating unified classes and sports teams.
Last year, Warren introduced a Unified PE Class where an adapted PE class joined with a general PE class one time per week to celebrate inclusion in a physically active environment.
These efforts were furthered this year with the implementation of a Unified Art Class where general education students are combined with students with special needs.
In this art class, art concepts are the same but the techniques and tools are simply scaffolded, which means they are tailored to the needs of every student with the intention of helping achieve his/her learning goals.
Unified sports were also established last year, where three unified teams were introduced – basketball, track and field, and cheer.
These unified sports have engaged over 100 student-athletes who participate as teammates with one another and work together in a physically demanding, competitive environment.