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"We will be a school/district with an unrelenting focus on learning. All students are expected to succeed; failure is not an option."
On Oct. 30, Ann Hudson, Area 11 Field Representative for Special Olympics Arkansas, visited Ashdown Junior High School, where she attended a school-wide pep rally held before an AJHS football game. But Hudson's reason for attending a football pep rally wasn't because of a football game -- she instead came to introduce the AJHS Unified Special Olympics Team and talk to the students about Project UNIFY. Ashdown Junior High is the first junior high school in the state of Arkansas to participate in Project UNIFY.
Through a variety of activities related to Special Olympics, Project UNIFY offers students without intellectual disabilities opportunities to support others who have intellectual disabilities and to build relationships between them. The activities include teaching sport skills, organizing events, fundraising, and peer coaching/volunteering, all the while raising public awareness of needs of the disabled.
Ashdown Junior High has formed a Youth Activation Council, a group of young people with or without intellectual disabilities who will be educated, motivated and activated to commit to the UNIFY vision of promoting school communities where all young people are agents of change. UNIFY fosters acceptance, respect, dignity and advocacy for the intellectually disabled, thereby for anyone who is perceived as different.
The Youth Activation Council members are leaders in their school who promote respect and acceptance for all students. AJHS's Youth Activation Council, led by Brett Bond - Student Leader; Keaylon Sanders - Athlete Spokesperson; and Elisha Stone - Sponsor and special education teacher at AJHS, challenges peers to create a healthier, more tolerant school environment.