Inclusivity Needs Action

EHS needs to continue to improve inclusivity in sports and activities


Courtesy of McKenna Sorenson

Senior Ella Schutte celebrates with a member of the unified bowling team.

Unified sports are an opportunity for students with intellectual disabilities to play a sport for their school alongside their peers without intellectual disabilities, known as unified partners. Being involved in extracurricular activities makes one’s school experience enjoyable. Elkhorn High School has put effort into providing more inclusivity in our school, but, compared to Elkhorn South, we are a step behind.
Special Olympics is an organization that has a collective goal of changing the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. They have recently received a grant and often fundraise with the goal of helping Nebraska schools demonstrate a growing commitment to inclusion.
This year, nine Nebraska high schools were nationally recognized by The Special Olympics as unified champion schools, as “leaders in change, advocates for their peers, and a true testament of the impact of inclusion.” Elkhorn South is ranked number eight on this list; they met the ten standards to achieve this award and were awarded a banner that hangs in their main gym.
Elkhorn High can earn this award if they advance upon current programs, and, as Special Olympics puts it, becomes “leaders in change, advocates for their peers, and a true testament of their impact of inclusion.”

If Elkhorn South is nationally recognized for being an advocate for change by showing inclusivity throughout their halls and in school activities, then Elkhorn High should be too. Elkhorn High is moving in the right direction. The school is already involved in Unified Bowling and Unified Track and Field. The school hosted a Unified Volleyball Jamboree with Elkhorn South at the beginning of the year, and will soon sponsor a unified cheer team.
“We are always looking for ways to create more opportunities for our kids to learn and compete in a variety of activities,” Activities Director Sara Fjell said. “We added Unified Cheer this year and will continue to look for ways we can broaden the offerings of our Unified sports and events.”
Macy Harnisch, a seventh grader at Elkhorn Middle School enjoys participating in sports and clubs including basketball, dance, cheerleading and swimming. Harnisch has Down Syndrome, which makes learning and physical activity a bit more challenging. This does not mean she, along with other students with disabilities, cannot be involved in sports or clubs for her school. Harnisch currently enjoys a very inclusive sports experience, and it is the hope of this publication that she and those around her will get to experience an exciting high school experience by having many activity options by continuing to expand unified sports at EHS.
The word unified means “together,” and unified sports involve both students with and without a disability. Unified partners are students without a disability who play alongside students with intellectual disabilities. Senior Ella Schutte has been a partner in unified track and bowling all four years of her high school career.
“I love making the kids with disabilities feel welcome and have a sport that they are excited for,” Schutte said.
Elkhorn High has done a great job at adding unified sports and programs into our school, but there are ways we can add support from the student body. A pep rally or inclusion in a pep rally at the beginning of the unified season would show both the school and student body’s support of unified activities and gain attendance at unified events. Millard West and Millard South hold an annual rivalry game. This provides a way for unified sports players to show off their skills to the entire school. Elkhorn High could do something similar with Elkhorn North or South. It would be a highlight of the year for the unified students and a fun experience for everyone involved and watching.
Elkhorn High School can become “leaders in change, advocates for their peers, and a true testament of the impact of inclusion,” by building on what opportunities this school can provide. Show up, show your support, and be an advocate for inclusivity.

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