By Izzy Pankey
Student involvement. Seemingly a given at JHS. Students can join any club and participate in practically anything, but student involvement for our special needs students is a bit different. That’s where project unify comes into play.
Project Unify is a club for students, with and without special needs disabilities, to create bonds and just have fun together. They focus on providing inclusivity and getting students to work together here at JHS. Project Unify works to create an inclusive environment by working through Special Olympics, creating fun hangouts, and providing all types of opportunities for students to get to know one another.
Special Olympics is one of the main ways Project Unify works to create bonds between peers and the Olympians. Peers are partnered up with an Olympian then practice and play with that Olympian throughout the year. Special Olympics allows Olympians and peers to bring out their competitive sides and have fun with each other. The games are fun for both partners and bring joy to everyone involved.
Along with Special Olympics, Project Unify also uses events like fall dances, movie nights, and other fun hangouts that allow students to create bonds they wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise.
The members of Project Unify use all of these opportunities to make some amazing friendships and connections. Club president, Kennedy Fox, 12, has been involved with Special Olympics since eighth grade. She has even had a special bond with Taylor Paul, since they were three years old. Taylor has down syndrome, but both of their opportunities to connect and hang out with each other through Project Unify allowed them to create their special bond.
“The relationships you build with some of the students are just amazing,” Kennedy tells the Torch, “all of these relationships are just so special and I think everyone deserves to have those really cool opportunities.”
While students use the club to create friendships with those different than them, the club is also a way for those with special needs or disabilities to connect with each other. Student Karley Keaton, 11, joined the club a couple years ago, after she was diagnosed with autism. While she doesn’t consider herself to be someone with special needs, others with autism do, and the club is a great way to meet and create friendships with others like her.
“It just made me feel more connected to people who have special needs,” Keaton says.
The club works hard to provide fun connection opportunities to all students at JHS. Principal Eric Fox, whose daughter Kennedy is the President of the club, is frequently involved with the club himself.
“I remember going to school myself, in the 70’s and 80’s,” he tells the Torch, “you didn’t see a lot of special needs students integrated into the regular classroom. They were kind of segregated at times. So I find it important to do what we can to make everyone feel apart and let everyone know each other’s strengths and personalities.”
The club hopes to allow students opportunities to understand their fellow students a bit more. They also work to help peers be more caring, compassionate, and understanding to all of the people around them.
“The more we know about each other,” Principal Fox says, “ the more we can appreciate each other.”
If you’re looking to become a member or get more information, stop by Mr. Horn’s room, 5114, for an application and to learn more.