Special Olympics Names OBHS National Banner Unified Champion School
Old Bridge High School was named an official Special Olympics national banner Unified Champion School.
Principal Vincent Sasso was notified by letter from Timothy P. Shriver, chairman Special Olympics International, and Marc Edenzon, regional president and managing director of Special Olympics North America.
“Your school community has shown impressive determination and is helping us move towards our collective goal of creating a truly ‘Unified Generation’ of young people who embrace differences and lead social change,” they wrote in the letter. “You are literally redefining the future as you make your communities more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities, and in doing so, making the world a more accepting place for all.”
Shriver and Edenzon commended the leadership efforts of special education teacher Karen Lewicki, and the Unified Champion School leadership team, including Lisa Tonnisen, paraprofessional; J. Scott Cascone, executive director of academics; Daniel DiMino, athletic director; and the high school’s staff and students.
Sasso expressed his excitement after reading the news. “For many years, Mrs. Lewicki and Mrs. Tonnisen, along with our Unified Team, have been trendsetters and helped to create an inclusive school culture that is second to none,” he said.
When learning of the honor, Lewicki said: “All our volunteer hours implementing and developing such a powerful program is rewarding. With the help and support of Special Olympics, we have built an inclusive school community by establishing Unified sports, youth leadership, education and social education programs that build self-confidence and foster communities of acceptance.”
Shriver and Edenzon challenged the high school “to push further” and to “continue to support the innovative minds of youths and adults in your school and be leaders in inclusion in your community.”
Schools Superintendent David Cittadino commended the program and the award it received.
“As the leader of a district team that continuously knocks down barriers to make all feel welcome and an essential part of our community family, I am bursting with pride,” Cittadino said. “Our Old Bridge Play Unify Team is a source of tremendous community fulfillment.”
DiMino called the Unified Generation teams “the definition of the school and athletic atmosphere and philosophy” at the high school.
“I am honored to be a part of such an amazing group of educators and athletes,” DiMino said. “I encourage all schools in our area to develop Unified teams to help expand this wonderful program.”