Unified Youth Summit pairs students with and without disabilities

Corey Parsons of North Platte pitches in a game of kick ball at the Unified Youth Summit at Adams Middle School on Saturday. The event brought youth and their leaders from as far away as Scottsbluff and Grand Island to participate in sport activities and learn skills related to leadership, social media and including others. Schools are partnering with Special Olympics to create opportunities for disabled and non-disabled youth to join in unified activities like track and cheer leading so everyone has an opportunity to participate.

Unified sports pairs disabled students with others to create inclusion, give everyone the opportunity to participate and have a lot of fun.

On Saturday, the first unified youth summit in western Nebraska took place at Adams Middle School. Participants from Scottsbluff to Grand Island joined in dance, kickball, yoga and other activities and participate in sessions to learn skills related to leadership, social media and including others.

Nathan Franz, a senior at North Platte High School, was instrumental in planning the summit in conjunction with Special Olympics and the school’s Unified Champion Schools committee. Lunch was provided by First National Bank of North Platte.

Unified sports is catching on throughout the country. NPHS adopted the program four years ago with unified bowling. This is the first year for unified track at the school and Franz said the results have been “fabulous.” Teams of students compete in a group of three events: long jump, 100 meter dash and 4 by 100 meter relay.

The North Platte students plan to participate in an exhibition race at the state track meet in Omaha in May, said Christie Copper, secondary special education coordinator for North Platte Public Schools. She hopes enough schools will have sanctioned unified track organizations by next year, that they can have competition at the state meet. She said all of the district’s students from preschool on up will be invited to participate in a unified track and field day on May 4. They plan to start unified cheerleading and dance at the high school next year.

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