Central High receives Special Olympics award

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK – Central High School has received an award recognizing its programs aimed at inclusivity for special education students.

Ron Jeffrey, president of Special Olympics Virginia, presented the 2016 Virginia Unified Champion School Award of Excellence to Principal Melissa Hensley and John Albright, a special ed student-athlete, on Wednesday.

The award was based on the school’s Champions Together and Fitness Mentorship programs, both of which were formed in 2015.

Central and Liberty High School in Fauquier County are the only schools in the state to receive the award.

Megan Smith, a special ed teacher at CHS, and health teacher Teresa Martilik launched the mentorship program, in which students in Martilik’s Sports Medicine class help special ed students in health and physical education classes.

Smith also helped launch Champions Together, a Special Olympics Virginia program to combine disabled and non-disabled students on unified school sports teams.

CHS has unified soccer, basketball and track teams.

Smith introduced a dozen Fitness Mentors and 14 Champions Together athletes before the award presentation. Jeffrey called the school “a model for inclusion” and praised the student body’s efforts at inclusion.

“It’s not just putting up with [special ed students],” he said. “It’s about seeing someone in the cafeteria and saying, ‘Come sit with me.’ You are a model for all schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Hensley also credited non-disabled students for including disabled students rather than merely tolerating them.

“I’m extremely proud and excited for our students,” she said.

Albright, 20, is enrolled in the school’s LIFE Program, which teaches vocational and self-sufficiency skills to special ed students.

He also plays soccer and basketball and runs track for CHS. An athlete since eighth grade, he said he likes the social aspect of unified sports even more than the athletics.

“I love hanging out with my friends and meeting new people,” he said. “I feel blessed.”

Smith, 26, is a former Special Olympics coordinator. Wednesday’s award marks the second accolade this spring for her.

In March, Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley named her as its 2017 Regional Educator of the Year.

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