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Westside schools celebrate recognition from Special Olympics

Posted at 7:02 PM, Oct 07, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — At Westside High School, the football game on Friday night is typically the highlight of homecoming week.

This year the district is highlighting another program they are proud to represent.

"Westside just really focuses on inclusivity and being together and being unified," Irish Gabrial Gallagher, a sixth-grader at Swanson Elementary School, said.

Irish and Lohith Anne are buddies at Swanson Elementary School in the unified club, which pairs students with disabilities with peers without a disability. Through the club they are able to participate in club meetings and meet new people.

"We actually just started eating lunch together this week ... it was just getting to know each other and that was really cool," Irish said.

District 66 is the first district in Nebraska to receive a recognition from Special Olympics for having the program at all of its schools.

"All of our schools within the school district earned banner distinction by offering so many activities that pair students with disabilities with students without," Dr. Mike Lucas, superintendent, Westside Community Schools said.

All 12 schools were represented at the annual homecoming pep rally for providing different opportunities for students of all abilities to join.

"We have unified flag football," Lucas said. "We are working on some unified fine arts, unified art classes, those types of things."

Irish is excited for all the volunteering and activities.

"I would just tell them to definitely get involved with the events ... because I know they'll like it," Irish said.

And she thinks everyone should be a part of it.

"Even the people you have known for years and years, but weren't really friends with them, you can learn a lot about them and it's really cool," Irish said.

The district plans to continue introducing new unified programs to meet everyone's interests.

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