Special Olympics North America (SONA) has selected Grandview High School as one of the nation’s top Unified Champion Schools, based on Grandview’s inclusive school climate and culture of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff.
Grandview students, alumni, staff, families and community members celebrated that honor on March 5 with a schoolwide parade and reception. The guest of honor was 2011 GHS graduate Eddie Yarbrough, who is now a defensive end for the Buffalo Bills. As a freshman at Grandview, Yarbrough helped start the school’s unified sports program, where students with special needs team up with their typically developing peers to play sports including basketball and track and participate in activities including a unified spirit squad.
This fall, Yarbrough selected Special Olympics and unified sports as his cause in the National Football League’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. Students from Grandview’s unified sports programs decorated Yarbrough’s cleats, which he wore in a game against the New England Patriots to raise awareness of his cause.
Before the March 5th parade at Grandview, Yarbrough told GHS students that he always wanted to leave a positive legacy. He said that in the years since he graduated from Grandview, he’s realized that small actions sometimes have the biggest impact.
“When you go through life, you think that to make a difference, you have to make a huge splash,” Yarbrough said. “But I’ve found that changing someone’s life can be as simple as helping someone in need. Just make someone’s life a little easier, a little happier.”
Yarbrough then joined the parade, led by GHS Wolf mascot, barrel man and marching band, and featuring members of the school’s unified sports teams and spirit squad. The Grandview student body lined the hallways, clapping and cheering in an enthusiastic show of support.
Grandview was named a Unified Champion School several years ago, after meeting three important requirements: having a unified sports program, hosting a unified club called Project Unify, which promotes acceptance and inclusion, and participating in the Special Olympics R Word campaign, “Spread the word to end the word,” to end the hurtful and dehumanizing use of the word “retarded.”
Grandview’s story is one of 50 from across the country that will be featured in a national video celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, founded in 1968 to change attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. A video crew was at Grandview on March 5th to document the celebration for inclusion in the video.
Kurt Wollenweber, who was principal at Grandview when Yarbrough and other students and staff members established the unified sports program, said the program has had a powerful and lasting impact.
“We continue to be proud of the climate and culture here. It’s always a great day to be a Wolf!” Wollenweber said.
Congratulations, Grandview students, staff and community!