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South Side team featuring Special Olympics athletes wins state basketball title

By April 20, 2023April 26th, 2023No Comments

This story originally aired on CBS Chicago on April 19, 2023 and was filed by Andrew Ramos. (source)

South Side team featuring Special Olympics athletes wins state basketball title

CHICAGO (CBS) — Student athletes from two high schools on the South Side came together this past season, not only developing a special bond but also a state basketball championship.

CBS 2s Andrew Ramos was on hand as the students united for a long overdue celebration on Wednesday.

The students at De La Salle Institute and Southside Occupational Academy High School have a lot to celebrate.

The schools joined forces this past season, when student athletes from De La Salle played side-by-side with Special Olympics athletes from Southside Occupational.

It’s part of the Unified Champion Schools program that merges the two student communities together on and off the field.

“They are pretty competitive, so if you don’t know them, you don’t know who is who,” said Special Olympics Illinois senior director Melissa Garritano. “It brings inclusion to schools.”

In this case, it was a formula for success. Last month, the team won the Unified IHSA Division II state championship, and Both schools came together to celebrate with a pep rally and scrimmage on Wednesday.

Southside Unified head coach Tom White was beaming with pride.

“Kids are all the same; they come out here, they play hard, they play good team ball, and they win, the same as any other sport,” he said.

“Here we have teachers, we have individuals setting the example, showing inclusion, showing what we need to be doing, and making a model for them to live in their lives,” Southside Occupational principal Josh Long said.

While good sportsmanship was widely practiced, it was friendship that was front and center.

“We became like a small little family, so it meant the world to me,” said De La Salle student David Coffey.

“This is amazing, and I would love to do this forever,” said Southside Occupational student Cesar Galindo.

As far as what the future holds, the two schools plan to continue the unified partnership with the bowling and basketball programs, and later this year will branch out to track and field.

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