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Bayview Elementary Educational Services Center Laketown Elementary Southview Elementary Waconia High School Waconia Middle School

Unified Basketball

By: Emily Chinault, Waconia High School

            Unified basketball is a great experience for students, parents, children, and the entire community. It is an awesome event to show the true value of each person attending. Charlie Gove, a senior Wildcat basketball player and unified team member said, “I have never seen so many smiles at a basketball practice or a game in my life.”

            Unified sports began with the Special Olympics Unified Movement. This movement gives students with disabilities a chance to make friends and feel like they are part of a group. General education students and special education students join students with disabilities in unified clubs, unified basketball and many more sports.

Waconia High School students participate in unified basketball. It takes place during the school days in January and continues through April. Students of all abilities play basketball together on the same team, promoting inclusion, relationships, friendships and acceptance. It also builds confidence by participating in an activity that a lot of other general education students play. Finally, it gives players a sense of belonging. Students with special needs are often in their own part of the school that fits their needs. With unified basketball, it brings everyone together and there are a lot of smiles that happen during these games and practices. Waconia hosts practices and a tournament each year, but the kids travel to other schools for games as well. The season ends with a large tournament held in the Twin Cities. Our WHS unified basketball team is a two-time champion of this event! The best memories from the past years are the state tournaments and Waconia High School hosting unified basketball invitationals.

            Unified basketball is an awesome experience that not every school has to offer. We are so lucky here to have this event going on at our school. As a general education student at Waconia High School, I am proud to hear the great things about the Unified basketball events in the halls. There is never anything bad said about it and it makes me proud to live in a community that is so welcoming to unique and different events that go on during the school year. I wish I would have gotten involved in it when I was a freshman, because I know I would have loved it. It is insane to see all of those smiles happen during the games and practices.

            In order to get involved, you need to get in touch with Kari Klein who is a special education teacher at Waconia High School. Do not hesitate to get ahold of Kari and get involved. It is a great experience for both special and general education and it gives you a time to be grateful and happy for the little things in life.