Spring Woods High School (SWHS) was recently named a Special Olympics Unified Champion School® and received National Banner School and ESPN Top-5 School recognition. On Friday, Feb. 3, alongside ESPN and Special Olympics, the SWHS community celebrated with a ceremony and a pep rally.
In September 2022, SWHS was recognized for demonstrating its commitment to inclusion and creating a school community where every individual is accepted, regardless of ability. SWHS is one of only five Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools recognized nationally by ESPN. Spring Woods has been a Unified Champion School® for four years and competes in 12 Special Olympics Unified Sports® including, football, cross country, track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, robotics, art, dance, and cheer. The program began in 2019.
SWHS was chosen for meeting 10 standards of excellence, which include Unified Sports, Inclusive Leadership and Whole-School engagement. Schools reapply for banner status every four years to ensure standards are continuously met.
The ceremony kicked off with a luncheon, where Dr. Jennifer Blaine, Spring Branch ISD Superintendent of Schools, welcomed and thanked ESPN, Special Olympics and all attendees for joining SWHS in celebrating their efforts in truly embracing their motto: All Means All.
Dr. Blaine introduced Jennifer Collier, SWHS principal, who expressed how important this award is for SWHS and the community.
“This is truly a very special day for us,” said Collier. “What is happening today is a result of our Unified teams and clubs coming together and making it a priority for everyone to be included in every aspect of high school. When we say All Means All, that’s in the classroom, on the court, on the field, that’s in everything we do.”
The audience cheered for Collier as she introduced a special video that showcased the SWHS community coming together to give Every Child the opportunity to discover new strengths, abilities and skills.
Special Olympics Texas CEO Tim Martin addressed the audience to share his story and commitment to driving the movement forward and bridging together people with and without disabilities.
The audience then transitioned to the gym, where students and community members came together to celebrate the award with a pep rally, which was hosted by ESPN's NFL nation reporter for the Houston Texans, DJ Bien-Aime.
The SWHS Unified band, cheerleaders and dance team performed for the audience and got everyone excited for a free-throw competition, where two SWHS Unified students, Dr. Blaine, SBISD Executive Director of Athletics Paige Hershey, SWHS basketball Head Coach Rashida Aikens and SWHS football Coach Kris Gordon, competed.
The audience cheered as the players ran across the court and shot the ball into the hoop. The game concluded as Coach Gordon celebrated his win.
Parents also attended and were excited for SWHS to receive the recognition.
“The Unified Programs at SWHS have been very important for my son. They have taught him leadership, responsibility, how to socialize, and have shown him dreams do come true,” said Leticia Piñon, an SWHS parent. “It takes a village to raise children and through these programs, Jesse branched out and became a strong young man in so many ways. I want him to continue growing and carry these experiences into his future.”
After the free-throw competition, the big reveal finally came. The lights were dimmed, and the audience clapped and cheered as a spotlight shone on the uncovered banner.
Students were invited to the gym floor to celebrate the reveal and engaged in a glow dance party. They waved glow sticks in the air and danced to Cupid Shuffle.
“There should not be a moment in school where kids are not included,” concluded Collier. “We are very proud to receive this recognition as it embodies what is the best part of SBISD, and that’s Every Child.”
Learn more about Unified Sports.
View the full photo album of the celebration!