SOMERVILLE, NJ - The accolades continue for Somerville Public Schools as the Special Olympics New Jersey and Special Olympics International have declared Somerville High School an official Special Olympics national banner Unified Champion School.

The latest designation follows last month's honor with the district named by the New Jersey Department of Education as a Lighthouse District.

Somerville High School has demonstrated a vision for inclusion that fosters an environment where Unified Champion School strategies are employed to build a truly inclusive school and where youth leaders are engaged and empowered together to be change makers in their school, according to Dr. Tim Teehan, superintendent of schools.

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The school’s commitment to inclusion was determined by meeting ten standards of excellence. The pillars of a Special Olympics Unified Champion School requires the presence of an inclusive school climate and creates a community of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body.

Somerville has achieved this by creating activities where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates, created inclusive youth leadership, and produce whole school engagement. The endeavors undertaken by the high school are self-sustainable and the school has plans in place to sustain these activities into the future.

Somerville plans to grow its efforts by expanding inclusion efforts in Somerville Middle School and Van Derveer Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year, according to Teehan.

Maureen Navatta, a Life Skills instructional assistant, has been instrumental in spearheading the inclusion efforts at Somerville High School. As a result, the Somerville High School students and staff have demonstrated their commitment to inclusion.

Somerville High School has shown an impressive determination in assisting Special Olympics in moving towards creating a truly “Unified Generation” of young people who embrace differences and lead social change, according to Teehan. Their efforts are redefining the future by making the Somerville community more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities. Somerville High School has accomplished this through inclusive practices which include, but are not limited to the Somerville Unified Bowling team, Peer2Peer, and varied inclusionary efforts in courses, activities, and sports, Teehan added..

Somerville Public Schools’ mission statement calls for the district to provide the highest quality education through an environment that promotes individual excellence for all students.

"The focus on authentic inclusion opportunities demonstrates an alignment to the district’s beliefs. Somerville is proud of its students and staff," Teehan said..