The Pomperaug High School (PHS) Unified Sports program was recently recognized by Special Olympics North America as a nationally recognized Unified Champion School. A special banner presentation was held during the Spirit Assembly at PHS on Wednesday, December 20, 2023, allowing the entire school community to celebrate the honor.
The banner presentation began with the Unified Sports team entering the gymnasium to the beats of the PHS drumline. Participating in the school-wide assembly to present the National Banner were PHS Unified Team members, Ms. Stephanie Bregman, Special Education Teacher and Unified Sports Coach, PHS Unified Team Alumni, Mr. Mike Mason, CEO of Special Olympics Connecticut, Mr. Bob Hale, Director of Unified Sports at CAS/CIAC, Mr. John Niski- Assistant Director of Unified Sports at CAS/CIAC, Ms. Barbara Horn, Ms. Kathy Davey, and Mr. Steve Trifone- CAS/CIAC Unified Sports staff.
The banner represents the school’s long-term commitment to unifying students. PHS was first recognized as a Unified Champion School in 2019. Schools can apply to renew national banner recognition every four years. Along with PHS, the other Class of 2023 National Banner Unified Champion Schools in Connecticut include Rocky Hill High School, Valley Regional High School, Westbrook Middle School, and Whisconier Middle School.
Through the Unified Sports program, PHS has demonstrated an inclusive school climate that “exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff.”
Bregman has been leading the charge with regard to inclusion and belonging at PHS. Now in its 8th year, PHS Unified Sports has grown to be a comprehensive program beyond just 3 seasons of sports. While the athletes tend to be mostly the same from one season to the next, there are many partners that participate in 1-2 seasons each year based on other sports and school activities that they are involved in. In addition to soccer, basketball, and track and field, PHS Unified now offers Unified Cheer and has begun to participate in Unified Cornhole.
“The team has worked hard to form new partnerships with different clubs and sports in the building as we continue to expand programs and increase participation after the pandemic disrupted routines,” said Bregman. “Our new partnerships have brought members of the PHS Track and Field team to help teach proper technique for throwing shot put and javelin, the PHS Cheer squad to choreograph and teach our routine for the Unified Cheer Showcase, and Unified partners planning a snow-tubing event and Adaptive Water Skiing for all this past summer,” Bregman continued. “In addition, the PHS Link Crew has helped us increase our number of fans in the stands at our events to cheer on our team.”
PHS Unified has been honored to be invited and participate in the Mohegan Sun Basketball Finals Halftime game three times, all players from any season are invited to participate in the annual Yard Goats Baseball game each spring, and team leaders (players with and without disabilities) attend the Youth Leadership Summit every year along with the coach.
PHS Unified alumni remain in contact with the program and graduated members participate in reunions and home events. Team members, past and present, continue the tradition of wearing silly socks to games and events, representing that as a team they are focused on having fun and being themselves.
The Unified Sports programs in Region 15 have expanded to the middle schools, as Unified Teams started in their buildings this past year, bridging Unified Sports from middle to high school. The middle school teams were invited up to the high school for their first game during basketball season and PHS Unified players were excited about being mentors and role models for the middle schoolers.
“As a coach, I am eager to see our program grow with students entering the high school already knowing about Unified Sports. Every person that plays Unified and supports Unified contributes to our goal of inclusion and creates a ripple effect of social inclusion in our communities. When we play unified, we live unified,” said Bregman.
Visit the team on Instagram at Pomp_Unified for more photos and videos.