Broadneck, Severna Park Named Unified Champion Schools


In recent years, the administrations at both Broadneck and Severna Park High School have worked to make their school communities more inclusive. Those efforts culminated in national recognition this September when both schools were among the Anne Arundel County schools to be named Unified Champion Schools by the Special Olympics.

The group, which included a state-best six schools, also included Crofton, Northeast, Southern and South River.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program aims to promote social inclusion throughout America, usually through highlighting schools that effectively implement opportunities for students with disabilities to become active members of the community. These schools make students with disabilities feel welcome and actively involve them in various activities.

Broadneck and Severna Park earned this recognition by meeting 10 standards of excellence, which include components of unified sports, inclusive leadership and schoolwide engagement.

Both schools have incorporated several unified sports into their varsity catalog, including unified tennis, unified bocce and unified bowling, which gives both general and special education students an opportunity to compete for regional, county and state championships.

“The students on the team help make you a better person,” said Mady Quigley, a player on Broadneck’s unified bowling team. “The unified teams are judgment-free zones.”

Off the field, Broadneck has also provided students with the opportunity to participate in other activities to become more involved in the school community. Through an effort led by Melissa Quigley and Jennifer Trout, the physical education and special education department chairs, respectively, Broadneck introduced unified physical education and dance programs, becoming a pilot school for the county in the process.

“This year, we have the biggest unified tennis team we’ve ever had,” said Megan Shields, a player for Broadneck’s unified tennis team. “We also have our biggest unified [physical education] class ever, and our biggest unified dance class as well.”

Broadneck has also established Unified Bruin Blocks, which allows special education and general education students to work together in order to learn new skills in a variety of areas, such as art, music and yoga. During Bruin Blocks, the school also offers the Bruin Buddies club, which allows general education and special education students to form friendships and work together on service projects.

“I think adding Bruin Buddies club and having increased class sizes has really helped make Broadneck more inclusive for students who can’t participate in unified sports,” said Izzy Lunay, another member of Broadneck’s unified sports teams.

Each Friday, special education students at Broadneck get the chance to operate a coffee cart, as they sell coffee to teachers around the building, allowing them to interact with new staff members and helping them develop valuable skills for the workforce. In another display of the school’s commitment to inclusion, Broadneck was able to host its first Unified Day last spring, with several high schools in the county participating in the event.

“It is a great honor to earn this distinction,” said Melissa Pfisterer, an assistant principal at Broadneck High School. “This means we are moving toward the all-inclusive way … Broadneck students are not just considered Bruins; they are unified Bruins.”

She added, “It is the best feeling to walk into a unified class or unified match and see the friendships being made and the teamwork among players. Students are learning from each other.”

Pfisterer also credited Clay White for his role in promoting inclusion throughout his time at Broadneck. White, who retired in 2019, coached unified bowling for several years during his 33-year tenure as the Bruins boys lacrosse coach. The school now has an athletic award in his name, given to seniors who show dedication, leadership and commitment to Broadneck’s unified programs.

“Coach White was a huge advocate for inclusion throughout his career,” Pfisterer said. “His dedication and commitment to making Broadneck a more inclusive school influenced others to want to continue the initiative.”

Severna Park has also developed other avenues for students with disabilities to become more involved in their school community. The school offers unified physical education classes, as well as unified art, allowing students who can’t participate in unified sports to become more involved within the school. Severna Park has also established a Best Buddies club, helping students with disabilities to form new connections and friendships outside of the classroom.

“To be recognized as a national Unified Champion school means so much to us,” said Nadine Hendler, the coach of all three of Severna Park’s unified sports teams. “Receiving this distinction reflects all the time, energy, and work that all of our players and families have put in throughout the years.”


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