Since 2013, Special Olympics New York (SONY) and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) have offered Unified Champion Schools programming through interscholastic Unified Sports and inclusive youth leadership clubs to NYSPHSAA member schools. Special Olympics New York provides initial seed funding, training for coaches, advisors and youth leaders, and ongoing technical support and rules interpretation.

Unified Sports is an inclusive sports program that unites individuals with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and without intellectual disabilities (partners) as teammates for training and competition. Each week we want to recognize an athlete and partner who embody the spirit of Unified Sports. This week our honorees are athlete Ronnie Awtry and his partner Sean Guillermo Denniston from Lockport High School!

Elizabeth Smorol, who nominated Ronnie and Sean, remarked about the pair changing the making a difference on the Unified team:

Ronnie is an inspiration to all of the other students with IEPs. He always has a smile on his face no matter what the situation, and he has been on the team all four years of the program's existence. Sean has been a consistent member of the team all four years like Ronnie. Evan though Sean already plays three other sports he wouldn't miss the opportunity to help others achieve what he already has.

In regards to how Ronnie and Sean have changed the dynamic of their school, Elizabeth said:

Ronnie now has friends that he would not have otherwise had. The members of other sports team often greet him in the hallway. Everyone across all groups recognize Sean as a community builder and leader through Unified and PE leadership. He is not a stranger in the halls of Lockport High School because of the respect he earned through the program.



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