DALTON, Mass. -- Over the next year, the Wahconah Regional School District will work on building a new high school.
The community that has been built at Wahconah was on full display Friday afternoon.
The school's annual pep rally put its Unified Sports programs front and center as Wahconah unveiled a banner celebrating its recognition by Special Olympics as a National Unified Champion School.
"This isn't just about Unified athletics," Principal Aaron Robb told the student body gathered in Ed Ladley Gymnasium. "When we applied for this ... they want to know what we're doing in the classrooms. They want to know what we're doing in the hallways. They want to know what we're doing in the community.
"So this isn't just about Unified athletics. This is about Best Buddies. It's about what some of you do on Sundays at Pine Grove Park. It's what some of you do during the winter with swimming at the CRA.
"It isn't just about Wahconah. It's about the entire Central Berkshire community."
Unified Sports, an initiative of Special Olympics, allows students of all abilities to compete side-by-side wearing their school's colors. Special education students join forces with other members of the student body to compete in sports like track and field and basketball.
In Berkshire County, Wahconah was a trailblazer with the first Unified track and field team two years ago. Last year, Mount Greylock started a Unified basketball team and Hoosac Valley added Unified track.
In spring of 2019, Wahconah's Unified track and field team earned a state championship. And just this week, it battled against Mount Greylock in a thrilling basketball game that came down to overtime.
Special Olympics Massachusetts Unified Sports Manager Kathy Lutz was on hand Friday to talk about the community Wahconah has fostered.
"I'm proud and excited to be here with you all today for what Wahconah is doing for inclusion," Lutz said. "You didn't just come in at a baseline level. You didn't do the bare minimum to get by. You guys brought it to the next level.
"And what that means is you have two Unified sports. That means you have more youth inclusive leadership. And what I see out here from the amazing tweets and coverage of your games is you're bringing cheer and cheer tunnels and excitement to your games. The whole school is part of this."
On Friday, it truly was. The Wahconah student body cheered as hard and as loud for its members playing a Unified basketball scrimmage as it possibly could Friday night at the Homecoming football game.
It is the kind of enthusiasm that made Wahconah one of just 16 schools in the commonwealth and 173 schools nationwide to be named a National Unified Champion.
Lutz said she hopes that spirit will help keep the Special Olympics movement to expand.
"We applaud your efforts," she said. "And we know that this work here that you are doing and this experience that you are sharing here today -- that work is not yet done.
"We're going to grow in the Berkshires. You're going to influence your neighbors to join Unified Sports. And you are going to be the Unified generation. We expect your enthusiasm and excitement to lead this movement forward."
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February is American Heart Month — a great time to quit vaping, smoking or other tobacco products.
Smoking can lead to narrowing blood vessels and high blood pressure and it is a leading cause of heart disease. Vaping is still fairly new and less is known about its effect on the heart. However, the American Heart Association reports that two new studies find that vaping may be just as dangerous by increasing heart disease risk factors.
So, for American Heart Month, make a resolution for a healthier life for you and your family. If you vape, smoke or use other tobacco products, quitting is the most important step you can take to protect your health.
If you want to quit and tried in the past, don't give up. It often takes several tries before you quit for good. However, with planning and support, you can become tobacco-free.
Vapers, smokers and other tobacco product users can call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free coaching through phone, e-chat, and text 24 hours each day, seven days a week or you can find helpful information and enroll online through KeepTryingMA.org.
Make the choice to quit today, making this the beginning of a smoke-free and healthier you!
Joyce Brewer is the program manager for the Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership, a program of the Berkshire Area Health Education Center headquartered in Dalton. Contact her at 413-842-5160
or at email@example.com.
So now that he's a healthy 10-year-old at Craneville Elementary School, it's only natural that he chose Boston Children's as the recipient of a fundraising project sparked by a unique classroom assignment from his fifth-grade teacher, Teresa Bills. click for more