Student News Desk | Soaring Together
Senior Julia Haller links hands with freshman Francis Lynott at a unified bowling match. The unified bowling team went undefeated in their regular season. “My favorite part about unified bowling was definitely the team chants every time someone got a strike or a spare,” Haller said. “It was so fun and brought a lot of positivity to the team.” Photo by Addisyn Keller.
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Written by: Emely Chairez, Southwest High
To be inclusive means to never leave anyone out, to connect with everyone. The unified activities at Lincoln Southwest High School understand this and attempt to be inclusive in every one of their groups.
Anyone is welcome to join the eight unified activities currently offered. Each is meant to help students connect with one another.
“Unified activities are really important for everyone,” Unified Council copresident Lily Doné said. “We have some amazing students in our special education department so I think it’s important that those students get to make connections and have experiences that they never would have been able to have. The relationships formed in every unified activity are just super special.”
Unified bowling, unified track and field, Unified Council, Unified Club, Unified P.E., unified choir, Unified Walking Club and Unified Book Club are all available for students to join. Choir, walking club and book club are all new this year.
“I really like being in unified choir,” freshman Christina VonWonder said. “My favorite part is singing with my friends and getting to use cool instruments.”
Many students join a unified activity hoping for a new experience, but stay for the connections they make.
“It’s a really open and inclusive environment. Everyone is just really kind to each other and are there to have fun,” sophomore Elizabeth Falcone said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends and the
environment has brought a lot of positivity into my life. My favorite part about unified activities is just getting to talk to people.”
On Sept. 30, Southwest was named a banner school by the Special Olympics of Nebraska. Southwest is one of four high schools in Nebraska to hold the title.
Southwest and Lincoln Southeast High School are the only schools in Lincoln Public Schools with this title as well. A banner school is an inclusive school that consistently upholds the 10 National Standards of Excellence spelled out by Special Olympics. Schools have to reapply for banner status every five years.
“Being recognized as a banner school means you’re the best of the best,” unified coach Lis Brenden said. “You have to do a lot to show that you really are inclusive. It’s the equivalent of being a State Champion in other sports. I think we are absolutely leading on how to be more inclusive.”
Southwest is currently trying to implement unified cheer and unified yearbook as other activities students can participate in. Currently, inclusive cheer and inclusive yearbook are available for all students. However, because these activities are not yet officially offered at every high school in LPS, they are called “inclusive.”
Not only are more unified activities trying to be implemented, but unified coaches at LSW are also hoping to be able to expand the unified activities currently available.
"The only thing I would ever change about the unified activities at Southwest would be their size,” Brendan said. “I would like to see more. For example, I would like to see Unified P.E. available all year long. I don’t know if there's much more we can add or subtract because there's so much we do. I think we can continue to get better and hopefully get more people involved.”
Published: May 1, 2023, Updated: May 3, 2023