Highest Unified Champion Schools Award Presented at Schoolwide Assembly
The entirety of Louisville’s Eastern High School turned out for a celebration in the school gym on Friday, Feb. 2. But it wasn’t for a basketball or volleyball game, or for a football pre-game pep rally. The assembly was to unveil the school’s Unified Champion Schools National Banner Award.
Assembly activities included student pairs speaking about their unified experiences, a Unified relay – which is a tradition at the school, comments from Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, and the Mayor of Middletown Byron Chapman proclaiming it Unified Champion School Day. There was also a touching speech from Shannon Bryar, a former Eastern Student and now teaching assistant at the school. As a student, Shannon helped as her mom Carol – an MSD teacher at Eastern — started Unified Champion Schools program there. Shannon accepted Eastern’s ESPN Honor Roll Award on behalf of her mom who had to miss the ceremony due to illness.
The assembly closed with the unfurling of their banner, with athletes parading it around the gym.
In addition to Superintendent Pollio and Mayor Chapman, other dignitaries attending the presentation included Drs. Damien Sweeny and Michelle Sircy of the Kentucky Department of Education and Sarah Bridenbaugh of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
“We are so excited for Eastern High School to be recognized as a National Banner Award and ESPN Honor Roll school,” Special Olympics Kentucky Unified Champion Schools Director Karen Michalak-Parsley said. “Eastern was one of the earliest adopters of the Unified Champion Schools program in the state and have done amazing work in their efforts to create an inclusive school community and reach this milestone.”
“We’re so proud of our Eastern students, their relationship with Special Olympics athletes and the incredible friendships and learning opportunities they share with each other,” Eastern High School Principal Dr. Heather Orman added.
In advance of the presentation, Carol Bryar said, “When I came to Eastern, I wanted to be a part of a typical high school and help give my students a typical high school experience. This student body embraces those concepts that the Unified programs represent. Eastern students, staff, and administrators are the best in the state.”
Recognition as a National Banner School is the highest honor Special Olympics affords to schools participating in the Unified Champion Schools Program. Eastern is one of two Kentucky schools to receive National Banner recognition for the first time this year and one of five Kentucky schools overall. Union’s Ryle High School joins Eastern as a first-time honoree this year while Bullitt East renewed the award it first won in 2019. Other Kentucky Schools to be recognized include Calloway County and East Carter High School were both named National Banner schools in 2018.
Ryle was scheduled to present its banner on January 19, but the ceremony was cancelled due to a snowstorm in Northern Kentucky. They will now unveil their banner on March 1.
For more information about the Special Olympics Kentucky Unified Champion Schools program or about the National Banner Award, contact Karen Michalak-Parsley at [email protected] of 502-326-5002.