Del Valle High School (DVHS) earned the distinction of a Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) Unified Champion School. The campus applied to be a SOTX banner school in January and was awarded the distinction soon after. Schools are awarded the distinction by SOTX by aligning with the following three components: Inclusive Student Leadership, Unified Sports and Arts, and Whole School Engagement. These factors help ensure everyone feels welcome regardless of one’s difference or ability.
Angie Payne, who serves as the district Special Education Adapted PE coach and the Head Coach for Special Olympics, noticed the natural inclusiveness of the DVHS environment. Payne’s observations led her to encourage DVHS to refine and expand current inclusivity practices so the school could qualify as a banner campus for the Special Olympics Texas Unified Champion School program. Without hesitation, the students, staff, and administration who were approached immediately offered assistance to ensure the advancement and recognition of DVHS.
“Sometimes, my job is to take the pieces of success that I see and combine them into the bigger picture so we can recognize the exceptional work that is done in the District or on campus. DVHS students and staff are amazing to work with since they understand the significance of what is happening on campus,” said Payne. “For some students, this is going to be game-changer as we expand our reach across campus. Our Cardinals are going to realize their world bigger than they thought as they find themselves acting as a facilitator, coach, and leader for their peers.”
The Department of Special Education continuously works with the staff at DVHS and the Athletics, Dance, Cheer, Theater, and the Band departments to create a supportive, inclusive environment. From providing more profound sports programs to offering a unified prom, DVHS is promoting an atmosphere of acceptance, inclusion, and student leadership for all. These efforts benefit both students with and without disabilities as it breaks down barriers that could unnecessarily separate students’ academic experiences and instead, provides a more traditional high school experience that is also more developmentally appropriate for the students.
Director of Special Education Services Gaylynn Clevenger stated, “We are a district that believes in growing inclusiveness. By setting up programs that allow non-disabled peers to integrate with peers who have a disability, our students have new opportunities to see what other people can offer that may be different from themselves. Others enrich our lives. We are not created equally; that means we all have something different to share.”
DVHS is one of 100+ Texas schools actively providing a Special Olympics Texas Unified Champion School environment.