Special Olympics New Hampshire Schools Team
Pete Cofran Hired To Lead Inclusion Effort
Manchester, NH (August 3, 2020) –The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® strategy is aimed at promoting social inclusion by uniting students with and without intellectual disabilities and offering an avenue for them to share their school experience together. The goal of UCS is to be a catalyst within schools to promote communities of inclusion and respect. This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners.
Special Olympics New Hampshire currently has a Unified Champion Schools program in nearly 70 schools in the Granite State. SONH plans on growing that number during the 2020-2021 school year. Critical to that growth will be adding more middle schools to the mix statewide.
The first step in that growth was to assemble a Schools Team to lead the way. Guiding that team will be veteran New Hampshire coach/educator Pete Cofran, recently hired as the SONH Director of Schools. Cofran brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Special Olympics New Hampshire. He worked in various capacities for the Athletics Department of Plymouth State College and spent 12 years as the Athletic Director at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, New Hampshire. Through his work with schools he has also been involved with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for 40 years.
While sports and inclusive youth leadership are critical components of any UCS program; Cofran marvels at the whole school engagement aspect of the program. He says that it’s hard to tell which students derive more from the program, the students with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) or those without ID. Cofran notes that “you can see the students with ID growing and gaining self-esteem” in a school environment that nurtures acceptance.
Kerri Rodgers agrees. Her son is SONH athlete Bayzil Moreau who recently graduated from Exeter High School. Bayzil participated in Unified soccer and basketball as well as track. Rodgers says that “the kids at the high school were so kind and amazing. Some even volunteer with the Local Program which made it such a smooth transition for him.” Bayzil currently participates in bowling and track with the Exeter Area Athletes and downhill skiing at McIntyre Ski Area with the Manchester Local Lrogram all while studying chemistry at Great Bay Community College.
A select group of Unified Champion Schools have achieved national “banner” status. Banner recognition for a school signifies that the school has demonstrated a commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence that were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The 4th school in New Hampshire to achieve that honor is Epping High School. Principal Brian Ernest says “The Epping Project Unified Sports and Club work throughout the school year to fundraise, educate, and include all Epping Students and the Epping Community to promote inclusion. It gives students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to interact and socialize with students without ID within school activities and on field trips.”
The Schools Team at SONH also includes two Schools Manager positions. Laurie Belanger has held a Schools Manager position for three years. In preparation for the anticipated growth of the program, SONH employee Ryan Grogan has recently been promoted to a second Schools Manager position.
Pete Cofran acknowledges that, due to the Coronavirus, this school year will probably be unlike any other. He says that “everything will be offered but it will be up to individual school districts. Nashua will do things differently than Newfound and they will both be different from Berlin.” He won’t be slowed down by those challenges though. Cofran says “Sports is my life.”
About Special Olympics New Hampshire
Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH) is an accredited program of Special Olympics International (SOI) and is part of an international global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.
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Contact: Mark Ericson
603-624-1250 Ext. 22