The dozens of students and staff involved in the H-F High Unified Program gathered for a photo with the Special Olympics banner. It's the second time H-F has received the honor, and is one of only five schools to be recognized. (Provided photo)
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H-F High accepts 2nd National Unified Champion Banner

Homewood-Flossmoor High School has earned repeat honors as a National Unified Champion Banner School from Special Olympics Illinois.

A special presentation ceremony was held Monday, Oct. 24, with about 150 H-F students cheering as the banner was unfurled. Kim Riddering, Special Olympics Illinois’ chief operating officer, said H-F is one of only five schools in Illinois that have received the honor. 

Students and staff gathered Oct. 24 for the presentation of the National Unified Champion School banner presented to H-F High by Special Olympics Illinois. (Provided photo)
Students and staff gathered Oct. 24 for the presentation of the National Unified Champion School banner presented to H-F High School by Special Olympics Illinois. (Provided photo)

Special Olympics Illinois presented H-F with its first honor in 2018. Winning the award means H-F has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff, Riddering explained. H-F has demonstrated its commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence, including unified sports, youth leadership initiatives and inclusive clubs and groups.

Dave Dore, chair of the special education department, said, “It is amazing to see this grow” year after year, and the successes of the student athletes. H-F joined Special Olympics in 2006 and has fielded unified teams made up of special education and general population students since 2012.

The dozens of students and staff involved in the H-F High Unified Program gathered for a photo with the Special Olympics banner. It's the second time H-F has received the honor, and is one of only five schools to be recognized. (Provided photo)
The dozens of students and staff involved in the H-F High Unified Program gathered for a photo with the Special Olympics banner. It’s the second time H-F has received the honor, and is one of only five schools to be recognized. (Provided photo)

In 2019, H-F’s unified team won its third state championship in a row in basketball. 

During the ceremony, students repeated this pledge:

I pledge to look for the lonely, the isolated, the left out, the challenged, and the bullied. 

I pledge to overcome the fear of difference and replace it with the power of inclusion.

I choose to include.

Dore added that the overall H-F unified program goes much deeper than sports by reaching out to students in the general student population to engage with and accept each other.

The unified sports programs are under the direction of Katie Rice-Head, assisted by teachers Katie Nieckula, Aimee Veal, Tiffany Mucha, Jennifer Olumstad and Brian Garland. 

Rice-Head said she was extremely proud to be receiving the national banner award because it represents H-F’s efforts to meet the 10 criteria, even during the pandemic.

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