Unified basketball changes PMHS for the better

Unified basketball got off to a strong start at Pelham Memorial High School this spring. Unified sports are a trend in high schools in New York. The teams are set up to include special-needs kids. At this moment, the only sport that the program is offering is basketball.

There is a tight bond between the special-needs kids in each school. For them to be on a team together playing against other schools is really something special.

Students have been supportive of all of the kids on the PMHS unified basketball team, which played for the first time this spring. They have a whole spirit squad set up, and many people go to cheer at the games. The hope is that Pelham, all the other New York schools and the nation will expand into other sports with more teams.

According to a release from the Pelham School District in late January, unified basketball is a varsity-level sport designed to help increase inclusion of students with disabilities in competitive athletics. The team includes students with and without disabilities.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ discovered the program at her old job. After she moved to the Pelham School District, she went back to her old district to get more information on what the program was all about and how it worked. She talked to Athletic Director Stephen Luciana, who supported adding the team.

Money was found in the budget to start the program. The idea was presented to the Board of Education, which gave its support. 

The kids at the high school love the unified basketball team. They go to games at other schools, and they all support each other.

Luciana said that one time he was at a game, it was one boy’s birthday and the whole gymnasium sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

This program has been an extremely positive experience for the Pelham community. So many people here in Pelham have high hopes for this program to continue for as long as possible.