Franklin High School students are Champions Together
Published 11:06 am Saturday, May 16, 2015
At Franklin High School’s April 29 track meet, the program joined Southampton High School as the two Western Tidewater Schools to support Virginia Special Olympic’s Champions Together.
As the groups that were made up of both Special Olympics athletes and their friends lined up for the girls 50 yard dash and the boys 100 yard dash, they were surrounded by an entire track meet with dozens of athletes watching and supporting them.
Rick Jeffrey, past Special Olympics president, said that there are already divisions and limitations amongst students in high school, and when you compound that with Down Syndrome, autism or an undiagnosed disability, it can get tough.
“In most cases, the limitations in a school environment, an environment that moves all too fast, are enormous,” he said. “And even in schools with wonderful inclusive classroom environments, the opportunity to interact and really build friendships and relationships remains limited.”
So Special Olympics sought to imagine a partnership between their athletes and high schools throughout the state. Franklin is one of 23 participants in Virginia.
“Sports and sports teams are probably more conducive to building relationships and creating friendships than possibly any other school activity,” Jeffrey said. “Plus, throw in the opportunity to ‘wear the colors’ and represent your school and you create an emotional bond that may be the most inclusive opportunity for any student.”
Franklin High School’s girls team track coach Mona Sumblin said it partners general education and special needs students together for events such as the softball throw, the shot put, 50 yard dash, 100 yard dash and 200 yard dash.
After the event conclude, she was all smiles as she gave high fives to each student who participated.
Principal Travis Felts was also excited about the program.
“Every chance we get, we want to make sure all of our students get a chance to participate and feel included as part of the Bronco Family,” he said. “All of our students grow when everyone gets a chance to participate and compete.”