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Addams receives national recognition from Special Olympics

Addams Junior High School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, received national banner recognition on Nov. 26 for meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect.

Addams is one of only four schools in Illinois to attain National Banner designation this year, and one of eight Illinois schools ever to achieve the recognition. Mead Junior High School in District 54 received National Banner recognition in 2018. More than 400 schools in Illinois and more than 6,000 across the country participate in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming.

A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The primary activities within these standards include Special Olympics Unified Sports (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.

“It is truly an honor to be given this recognition. The students and staff here at Addams work hard to advocate for respect and inclusion in the classroom and beyond, which includes all of our clubs, sports, and activities like the school musical,” said Addams Club Unify co-sponsor Ann-Marie Cerny, who submitted Addams’ application for recognition. “Together we are working toward a Generation Unified and we hope that having programs like Unified PE, Club Unify and all-inclusive competitive sports will help us get there.”

Addams offers unified sports through the school, including a new Unified Bowling team and a dance competition in December, and through District 54 Special Olympics. The school ensures whole-school engagement by hosting events such as Respect Week/Colors for a Cause, in which students wore a different color each day to promote awareness and support for causes such as blue and yellow for Down Syndrome awareness. Addams fosters inclusive youth leadership through participation in the statewide Youth Activation Summit and school activities such as Club Unify, Community Crusaders and Spirit Council. The club promotes inclusion awareness through a variety of activities including public service announcements, motivational assemblies and Special Olympics speakers at Career Day.

“Addams is so deserving of this recognition. The students and staff always strive to be sure everyone is included, regardless of ability,” District 54 Special Olympics Specialist Kelly O’Reilly said. “There are only three junior high schools in the state with this honor and District 54 has two of them.  We should be very proud of being leaders in the Inclusion Revolution.”