PORTSMOUTH – There are certain requirements a high school Unified program must be able to show and demonstrate in order to receive a certain national recognition.

Some of the requirements include having at least two Unified sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement.

The Portsmouth High School Unified sports program hit those requirements on the head, plus more, and because of that, the school has been recognized as a National Unified Champion School.

The Clippers received the banner to commemorate this achievement during halftime of Friday afternoon’s showdown between the school’s Unified basketball team and the Portsmouth High School Staff All-Stars. The Unified team held on for a 42-35 before a capacity crowd at Stone Gymnasium.

“(This achievement) is pretty special, it’s something we’ve been trying to work toward for years now,” Portsmouth Unified basketball coach Bryan Rogers said. “For it to come to fruition, and to be able to celebrate in front of the entire school and community, it really means a lot.”

Portsmouth High School offers a Unified sport each season; soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track and field in the spring.

The banner, which was delivered by Leisa D’Amour of the Special Olympics of New Hampshire, was accepted by the basketball team, and then every Portsmouth student-athlete involved in Unified sports gathered around the free-throw line for a group picture.

“This means, honestly, a lot to me,” Portsmouth sophomore Ash Markley said. “Even though it’s my first year, I’ve really grown another family so to speak. Everybody says hi to each other in the hallways at school. Nobody is a stranger. It’s very inclusive, and just to receive an award is kind of awesome.”

Portsmouth’s Adrianna Marcus scored 16 points in the game, while Markley had eight, Niko Killinger had six, Stephon Eliason and Zach Gellar both had four, and Anya Gronblom and Jazz Johnson Timmons both had two.

“I think we deserved (the banner) for sure,” said Portsmouth senior Teak Getman, who serves as president of the Unified basketball team. He also is a peer mentor and, along with varsity teammate Isaiah Reis, served as one of the two game officials.

“It’s fun to finally be recognized after how far we’ve grown over the last couple of years,” Getman said.

Portsmouth, which has more than 60 student-athletes who participate in Unified sports, was one of three New Hampshire schools to receive the national award this year. The other two were Epping High School and Plymouth Regional High School.

“It means a lot (to be recognized), obviously a lot of hard work goes into it,” Rogers said. “I think it kind of shows that if you preserve, good things happen. It starts with our students who kind of have this vision that they want to be an inclusive school and want to have activities for everybody … the staff is amazing and very supportive.”

D’Amour said Portsmouth is ‘doing all the right things’ when it comes to its Unified program.

“They’ve been working so hard to expand what they’re doing,” D’Amour said of what stood out about Portsmouth, citing that Portsmouth’s Unified club started in a classroom, and now has to meet in the cafeteria. “The Unified club does a lot of stuff for the school as well.”

Stone Gymnasium was packed, with hundreds of people in attendance, which was great to see, Markley said.

“Our school is very supportive,” she said. “(Unified sports) has been a very great community.”

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth High Unified sports recognized as one of nation’s best

See all of the pictures from the Portsmouth High School Unified Champion Banner Ceremony HERE!

The Special Olympics New Hampshire Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. With sports as the foundation, the three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.

Check out our Unified Champion Schools Playbook and Calendar of Events for more information!

Ready to take the next step, complete the Unified Champion Schools Application.