Novi High School was recognized as a National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics North America.
Novi High was one of 155 schools nationally to be recognized and one of five in Michigan. A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff.
A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole-School Engagement.
Banner Unified Champion Schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.
Dan Ekonen, senior director of program leadership for Special Olympics Michigan, said Novi High was an “easy choice” for being named a National Banner UCS. “When you see how their students interact and embraced UCS as what they do at Novi, it’s done at a very, very high level,” Ekonen said. “It has infused inclusion throughout their building. They are an easy choice to be recognized at a national level.
“I think it starts in the school. You see it change the school culture. When you bring 10-12 other schools into the building and community members love the program… When I was at the KLAA tournament, I talked to a grandmother of a general education student. She was there to support them and loved to support them. It overflows into the community.”
Two years ago, Novi High, in partnership with the Michigan High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Michigan, became the first school in the state of Michigan to host a unified basketball tournament.
Part of the National Banner UCS process includes hosting a high level recognition ceremony at the school. Special Olympics Michigan will work to identify options for this school year. There are currently restrictions against holding assemblies, so the ceremony may be delayed until the spring or next year.