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South Ripley High School was recognized Thursday night as a unified champion school by the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Indiana.

Champions Together is a collaborative partnership between the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Indiana that promotes servant leadership among student athletes while changing their lives as well as the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics International is supporting Champions Together as a model program to activate schools through “Project Unify” which also has the endorsement of the National Federation of High Schools.

To be considered a unified champion, schools must support the partnership between the IHSAA and Special Olympics Indiana while completing activities that involve unified efforts. The Champions Together program awards a banner to all IHSAA member schools that meet the following Project Unify goals in a school year:

  1. All school sponsored activities must be planned, organized and administered by an Inclusive Student Leadership team that strives to do things with students with intellectual disabilities not for them.
  2. The school must participate in at least one activity designed around Whole School Engagement that promotes and encourages awareness, respect and inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.
  3. The school must organize and participate in at least one Unified Sports activity such as IHSAA Unified Track and Field, a Unified practice or clinic, or a Unified competition with students with intellectual disabilities OR local Special Olympics athletes.
  4. Fundraising —the school must raise a minimum of $1500 for the Champions Together project.

South Ripley High School showed a unified effort during the 2014 -15 school year by conducting volleyball and cheerleading clinics, where varsity athletes invited Special Olympic athletes to participate. During those clinics South Ripley student-athletes worked together with Special Olympic Indiana – Ripley Ohio Dearborn County athletes to teach them various skills.

South Ripley High School also participated in fundraising for Special Olympics Indiana, specifically with the Polar Plunge that takes place each February at Versailles State Park and for the local program with their Firetruck Pull team.

SRHSOn Thursday, October 8th, South Ripley High School was presented with the Unified Champion School Banner from Lee Lonzo of the IHSAA. Present for the presentation were SRHS’s Library Media Specialist, Brenda Stimple, Superintendent Rob Moorhead, Trace Tucker, SRHS Special Ed Instructor, SOIN-ROD Program Coordinator, Greg Townsend, SOIN-ROD Fundraisng Coordinator, Cheryl Shuman, SOIN-ROD Coach Education Coordinator, Jeanette Mattingly, SRHS’s cheerleaders, volleyball team, and their Polar Plunge and Fire Truck Pull teams, and several SOIN-ROD athletes and parents.

“We are very proud to be one of only 37 schools across the state that are receiving recognition,” said South Ripley Community School Corporation Superintendent, Rob Moorhead.

The establishment of the “Champions Together” partnership between the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and SO Indiana was announced at the IHSAA headquarters on December 17, 2012. The partnership evolved from IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox charging the IHSAA Student Advisory Committee (SAC) to engage in “servant leadership” and discover ways to give back to their schools and communities.

The IHSAA SAC researched options and unanimously requested that an official partnership be formed with SO Indiana as the most appropriate fit for education-based athlete servant leadership. Special Olympics Inc. is supporting Champions Together as a model program to activate schools through “Project Unify” which also has the endorsement of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA).

During the first full year of the program 26 schools were awarded the Champions Together awards banner for achieving all four (4) of Project Unify goals, 13 schools participated in the inaugural IHSAA Unified Track & Field state championship, participating schools raised in excess of $75,000 for the support of Champions Together activities and 197 high schools achieved at least one (1) of the Project Unify goals.

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