Forest Grove High deemed a 'Unified Champion School' by Special Olympics Oregon

Forest Grove High School officials hung a new banner in their main gymnasium on campus Monday, Oct. 9, after the school earned national accolades for its commitment to promoting inclusion in the classroom.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove High School Special Education teacher Jill Hertell holds a banner with Jean Hansen, Vice President, School Partnerships and Youth Outreach for Special Olympics Oregon. The banner was presented to the school as one of only 38 schools in the country to receive the banner.Special Olympics Oregon (SOO) announced last week that FGHS, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, would receive national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities.

"Forest Grove is being recognized as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect," said Chad Carter, a spokesman for SOO. The award presentation took place during the school's homecoming assembly.

Forest Grove High is one of only 38 schools nationwide to receive the award, Carter noted.

"You've made your classrooms into places of inclusion, your hallways, your cafeterias, your buses, your playing fields into places of inclusion," Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics Inc., said in a press release. "Our hope is in you, that you will build the unified generation where once and for all people with intellectual challenges and their non-disabled peers will see each other as equal.

"You are a Unified Champion School and the future rests with you. Thank you for leading us forward."

In March, the Forest Grove Unified Basketball team won the first-ever OSAA/Special Olympics Oregon Unified Exhibition Basketball Championship Tournament and will be hanging its championship banner in the gym alongside the new national banner. The tournament was part of an exclusive partnership with OSAA and Special Olympics Oregon.

"Unified Sports is a positive, integral part of our Forest Grove High School Community providing meaningful opportunities for athletes of all abilities on an off the court," said Jill Hertel, who oversees Unified Sports at FGHS. "You can feel the impact walking down the halls as students treat each other with dignity and respect. You can also see the impact in classrooms where students are working side-by-side helping each other to succeed."

More than 75 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Oregon.

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