Homecoming pep rally highlights Unified Sports achievements


Marylee Vogt

On Oct. 7 all Westside schools were awarded the Special Olympics Unified Champion Banner.

At the Homecoming pep rally on Oct. 7, administrators awarded all schools in the Westside district as Special Olympics Unified Champion Banner schools. 

Each individual school in the Westside district has acquired a Unified Champion Banner.  Vice President of Special Olympics Nebraska Nate Parks said the award is an immense achievement for the district. 

“Becoming a nationally recognized Unified Champion Banner school is the highest honor that we have in all the Special Olympics in North America,” Parks said.  

Unified sports teams at Westside allow people with and without disabilities to participate on the same team. A Unified Champion Banner is awarded to schools with unified programs meeting national standards of excellence set by the Special Olympics, such as inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. 

Administrators individually introduced the sponsor, principal, vice principal, and student representative of the unified programs from each school. Sparkles, the unified cheer team, performed after each award was presented. 

Parks said that Westside is the first district in Nebraska to earn the award.

“Westside [has] every school, first in Nebraska,” Parks said. 

Parks said to spectators that the school should be proud of their inclusivity.

“Your commitment as administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and families to inclusion and creating a climate of social acceptance is truly remarkable.” 

Westside currently has three NSAA sanctioned unified sports including unified bowling, unified track, and Sparkles. Westside also participates in unified flag football and unified basketball, which are not NSAA sanctioned. 

Zane Cozad is Westside High School’s sponsor for Unified Sports. Cozad said WE-Side is important because it includes all students.

“WE-Side Unified affects our students because it gives them an opportunity to participate in school sanctioned and NSAA sanctioned sports with their friends,” Cozad said. “I also think that it gives other people without disabilities an opportunity to be on a team that promotes inclusion.” 

Superintendent Mike Lucas said We-Side is what he loves most about the Westside district. 

“The great thing I love about Westside is the first two letters are ‘W’ [and] ‘E’, we,” Lucas said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall, opt-in or resident, intellectual challenges or not. We all get to be part of this beautiful red ‘W’ at Westside, and there’s no better place to be.”