ITC: high school wins nat'l award for inclusion

Posted at 5:10 PM, Apr 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 10:52:14-04

Inclusion at Papillion-La Vista South High goes a long way.

As Titans, P.E. has never been more fun as students celebrate their uniqueness. Through sports, they’re brought together despite their different abilities.

Since 2013, the school began offering students unified sports in basketball, bowling and soccer. Side-by-side, student aides help their fellow classmates jump over hurdles.


"Like that's what we want to do is to make them feel welcomed and feel like just like everyone else,” says Molly Simpson, a sophomore who is an aide. 

As students played human bowling, a game where students push each other on what looks similar to a skateboard into giant pins, Austin Lindberg told 3 News Now on Monday that the P.E. class is his favorite.


It brings joy to my heart, he says. Sportsmanship is one thing, but the aides and their fellow classmates also do life together as friends – even teaching each other social skills.

On Tuesday, the school’s approach to inclusion caught national attention when the Special Olympics declared it as a “National Unified Champion School.”

A first for a Nebraska school and only the second in the country, according to Timothy Shriver, chair of the competition.

Former student Rachel Mulligan, also a Special Olympics competitor, joined the celebration as Shriver made the official announcement at a jam-packed rally inside a gymnasium filled with nearly 2,000 students.

"It's a student body that's inclusive and welcoming,” Shriver says.

“It's not being forced upon them by teachers. Young people are themselves capturing the energy of inclusion.”

Understanding inclusion goes beyond the four walls of a classroom, the high school launched its “Spread the Word to End the Word,” a campaign fighting to curb the “R” word and instead use the word “unified” more.