A Unified Sports banner hangs on the fencing circling Blue Devil Stadium.
A Unified Sports banner hangs on the fencing circling Blue Devil Stadium. 

Special Olympics Names Huntington a Unified Champion School

October 3, 2023

The Special Olympics has named Huntington High School a Unified Champion school. The Blue Devils sponsor varsity Unified bowling and basketball teams. Both teams and sports have proven popular with students.

Huntington district and building level administrators and the seven Huntington School Board members have all thrown their support behind the Blue Devils Unified sports program, including providing funding for coaches, uniforms, supplies, travel, officiating and supervision at events.

“Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences,” according to the organization. “Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

Like all Unified Sports teams, Huntington Unified bowling and basketball team are comprised of students of similar age abilities. “That makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all,” according to Special Olympics. “Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.”

Special Olympics sent Huntington officials three red banners recognizing the high school as a Unified Champion school. One of the banners is affixed to the fencing surrounding the track at Blue Devil Stadium.

“The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change,” according to the Special Olympics. “With sports as the foundation, the three component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions. This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement.”

Huntington’s Unified bowling team utilizes Larkfield Lanes in East Northport. The Blue Devils are coached by high school physical education teacher Lauren Blackburn.

Huntington’s Unified basketball team practices and plays its home games at both the high school and J. Taylor Finley Middle School. The squad is coached by Finley physical education teacher Jordan Ioviero. Last spring the team went 5-1 in the regular season.

“The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners,” according to Special Olympics. “What a Unified Champion School ‘looks like’ can vary greatly from school to school, based on the needs, goals, schedules and other factors unique to each school; but the basic building blocks remain the same.”

Huntington is also in the process of developing a Unified Physical Education course. It is believed that once fully approved, it will be the first such course on Long Island.