Where there is unity, there is ALWAYS victory.

Over the past several months, the other West Friends student leaders – Claire, Maddie, and Kaylee – and myself had the responsibility of organizing and promoting the 1st annual “Q Street Classic” unified basketball game. Today, hundreds of students gathered to watch the unified teams play, and all I can say is wow. 

In my years of high school, I’ve been really involved and focused on the West Friends special needs club, but being a part of that game was definitely the best thing that I have ever done. Everyone was there – students, staff, families, pep band, cheerleaders, journalism, you name it. Even the representatives from Special Olympics made an appearance and set up warm-up drills for the teams. I cannot even explain the emotions I felt when seeing the sheer amount of people there and hearing them cheer every single time either team scored.   

 The crowd literally erupted every time something good happened, and they still yelled encouragements when someone missed. It was like there was no opposing team – everyone clapped for everyone. 

What amazes me the most was that all of the fans yelled louder at this game than for any other regular game. After being a cheerleader for several years, I know that it sometimes takes a lot to get the crowd pumped up, but at this game, they came in ready to yell. Some even made signs for their favorite players, making the game that much closer to a legitimate game atmosphere.  

The courage of the players was outstanding. No one got discouraged when they missed, but they tried again until eventually, they made it. 

No one was really paying attention to the score until the game was over, and even then it ended up perfectly as a tie! Both schools scored 31 points, leaving everyone with the title of champions.  

  This game was seriously the EPITOME of my platform, the “Positive Power of Inclusion.” There was nothing negative about this game, and even with opposing teams, everyone was welcomed. Inclusion isn’t just something that has to be encorporated into a classroom to help students learn better. Inclusion is a way of life that should cover anything from befriending someone with a disability to literally playing on a sports team with them. 

I still cannot think of the right words to explain my emotions during that game, but I will admit that I cried many happy tears. Before the game even started and I saw the hundreds of students flowing in, I had to fight to hold my tears back. I get chills over and over again when I watch videos from the game, and I definitely felt them stronger in person when it happened live.  

 What I can say is thank you! Thank you to all the students who spent their class time at the game, thank you to the teachers who came to watch, thanks to the parents and the players and the news team, and literally everyone. I know that no matter how many times I say thank you, it still wouldn’t be enough to cover the gratitude I have in my heart. 

The last few months organizing this event with my peers and the special education teachers were definitely worth the excitement. The hours spent contacting businesses, selling t-shirts, promoting the event, and making posters were not wasted.  

 I absolutely cannot wait for this event to happen again next year, and I hope that more people can witness the amazing things this game did for everyone involved.

My goal after this is to spread more of that joy of inclusion to other schools and organizations and be able to share with them firsthand just how incredible this game was. After all of this, I hope that other schools see how breathtaking it is to have everyone cheering for inclusion, and I hope that they organize their own unified event.   

 The one thing I can proudly say after this event is that inclusion really is such a positive power, and I am extremely humbled to have all of the support with my platform issue from schools and organizations across the community. 

I know I can believe that other people will follow the message that you have to play unified to live unified.