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West Albany High School has been recognized as an Oregon Unified Champion School for 2016-17 for its efforts in working with Special Olympics athletes through the Unified Sports program.

The school received the notification in mid-March. Representatives from Special Olympics presented the school with a Unified Champion banner during an awards assembly, which also included the presentation of an OSAA Unified Basketball Championship trophy for prevailing in a recent Unified basketball tournament.

"I am so proud of our awesome students and coaches," Principal Susie Orsborn said.

The Oregon Unified Champion School program is a new statewide recognition program for schools that work with Special Olympics Oregon, are implementing and sustaining inclusive programs and are dedicated to promoting inclusion.

The criteria for being recognized as an Oregon Unified Champion School includes holding at least one Unified Sports or PE program one season or quarter during the year, promoting opportunities for students to develop "Inclusive Youth Leadership" through advocacy and awareness events, organizing at least one awareness or education activity that promotes inclusion and "Whole school Engagement," and attending the annual Special Olympics Oregon Youth Leadership Summit.

"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," the award letter stated. "We look forward to seeing West Albany High School forge new paths towards inclusion for people of all abilities, and transform the world in the process."

Unified Sports is a division of the Special Olympics program and works on the premise that practicing and competing as teammates promotes friendship and understanding. Unified Sports teams pair players with and without developmental or intellectual disabilities to play a sport together.

West joined the program in the 2015-16 school year and holds Unified basketball games at least once a year.

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