When it comes to creating an environment that includes all students, regardless of physical or intellectual ability, Cleveland High School sets a national example.
CHS is one of the first schools in the nation to earn recognition as a National Banner Unified Champion School. This program, piloted by Special Olympics in four states this last year, promotes social inclusion in schools by building on Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, and experiences. The program, along with CHS’s Best Buddies program provides opportunities for students of all mental abilities to work together and participate in classrooms, sports, and activities. A socially inclusive school is a place where no student is excluded because of the degree or type of disability or the services required to meet his/her needs.
The Special Olympics program recognizes schools who meet and sustain ten standards of excellence, falling into in several different areas:
• Sports for All: Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities train and compete on the same team
• Leadership for All: Students with and without disabilities work together to lead and plan advocacy, awareness, and other inclusive activities throughout the school year
• Welcoming for all: Awareness and education activities promote inclusion and reach the majority of the school’s students and staff.
The activities include those of Cleveland’s Best Buddies program, where students participate in team sports during halftime of some Storm games and in a variety of other activities the students plan throughout the year. Earlier this year, CHS’s Best Buddies program was named New Mexico’s outstanding chapter.
Cleveland is one of two New Mexico schools to earn Special Olympics National Banner recognition; the other is Vista Middle School in Las Cruces.