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October 7, 2022 | Westside Schools Earn National Recognition From Special Olympics

Posted October 7, 2022

Westside Community Schools is proud to share that all 12 District 66 schools have been named National Banner Unified Champion Schools for 2022. This honor, recognizing an organization’s commitment to inclusion by achieving ten set standards of excellence developed by leaders in education and Special Olympics, including ongoing efforts to connect students with and without intellectual disabilities. Westside is the first district with elementary schools who have earned this honor, believed to be the first multi-school District in the state to receive this honor, and possibly the first multi-school District in the country to receive this honor.

Dr. Kami Jessop, Director of Special Services for Westside Community Schools, worked closely with Special Olympics to apply for and earn this honor. Examples of inclusivity implemented by District 66 include:

  • Monthly Unified activities including fishing, movie nights, and bowling, intended to partner students with and without intellectual disabilities

  • WHS Unified Sparkles Cheer, a cheerleading program involving students with and without intellectual disabilities, the first ever selected to perform at an NSAA State Championship

  • Unified Clubs and Sports opportunities available at each level of learning

  • Project SEARCH, a transitional program providing internship and job placement opportunities for young adult with special needs

  • Creation of Arts For Me program, providing teenage students with special needs access to art training and creation, with opportunities to display their work at professional galleries


“It is exciting, humbling, and affirming that the work we are doing is setting a precedent for what is possible in public education, allowing all learners to thrive and belong,” said Dr. Jessop. “This is evidence of the literally hundreds of dedicated people, working together every day, to research and implement things we know will improve not only the achievement and independence of our students with unique needs, but our entire community’s acceptance and celebration of all learners.”


All of Westside’s 10 elementary schools, Westside Middle School and Westside High School have been awarded this distinction. Westside formally celebrated this honor by recognizing students from every school at the 2022 Homecoming Pep Rally on Friday, October 7. The entire community, as well as all students, families and staff, packed the stands at Phelps Field to celebrate this honor. 


“We hope this celebration allowed our entire Westside community to take part in this achievement and recognize its importance and impact on students and families,” said Dr. Jessop. “This is truly something our entire community should be proud of.”


To learn more about WE-Side Unified and the Special Services team and resources at Westside Community Schools, click here!