Corning-Painted Post High School Earns National Recognition as Leader in Creating an Inclusive School Community

Special Olympics New York Unified Sports Bring Students with and without Disabilities Together as Teammates

Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman today announced that Corning-Painted Post High School has earned National Banner status in recognition of its leadership in creating an inclusive school community. The distinction, made by Special Olympics North America, marks the highest level of achievement within the Special Olympics Unified Sports movement.

In a Special Olympics Unified Champion School like Corning-Painted Post, students with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same sports team. They also lead events and activities throughout the year that encourage all students to practice and value inclusion. At hundreds of these schools statewide, the program is reducing bullying and teasing, overturning negative stereotypes and spurring healthy social interactions.

“If you want to see what true acceptance and inclusion looks like, go to a Unified game or walk the halls of a Unified Champion School,” said Hengsterman. “Students and coaches playing Unified are changing the world, and Corning-Painted Post has proven to be one of the best of the best. We look forward to working with our partners across the state this school year to continue meeting an urgent – and growing – need for Unified Sports in New York’s schools and communities.”

“Our CPP Hawk Nation is humbled to receive such an honor,” said Superintendent Michelle Caulfield. “Our teachers, staff and students have embraced our Unified Sports program. The passion our Unified student athletes have is inspiring. At CPP and in our community, we choose to include! Thank you to teacher and coach Julie Pierce for leading this program.”

“When we started Unified Basketball and the Youth Activation Committee in 2018, we didn’t know how much the program would change us,” said Julie Pierce, teacher, Unified coach and Committee advisor. “The contributions of our students set the bar for inclusivity throughout our school community. These student leaders educate, motivate and activate youth to become agents of change at CPP by advocating for the respect, inclusion, and acceptance of all people, regardless of abilities. I am proud to see where we started and how far we have come.”

“Being able to work behind the scenes on projects, activity fairs, and game planning and watching the societal gap between general education students and students with disabilities close right before my eyes is inspiring and life-changing,” said Brennan Frost, former student and Committee president. “The Youth Activation Committee has changed my life and career plans in more ways than one. I could never be more grateful for the club, the opportunity to learn, and the memories I have from Unified Sports.”

“Being a member of the Youth Activation Committee had a profound impact on my life,” said Lauren Gerow, former student and Committee president. “It taught me to honor my commitments, advocate for inclusion in every way, and helped me form lifelong friendships. I am proud that I was an instrumental part of promoting inclusion at CPP.”

During the 2021-22 school year, the Youth Activation Committee at Corning-Painted Post raised $5,000 for Special Olympics New York, and won the “Cool School Challenge.” They also hosted an inclusive pre-semi-formal dance party and helped make the Unified Basketball season memorable with an increasing number of fans in the stands.

A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated the highest commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence. The standards were developed by a panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community nationally.

The primary activities within these standards are: Special Olympics Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole-School Engagement. To achieve banner status, Unified Champion Schools must also demonstrate that they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

Special Olympics New York and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association have collaborated to offer the Unified Champion Schools program since 2013. An ongoing campaign by Special Olympics New York aims to attract new schools to the movement, using the tagline: “If you don’t have this at your school, you should!” Interested schools can get started by visiting this link or contacting unified@nyso.org.

“Unified Sports is one of the most rewarding programs the NYSPHSAA offers,” said Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director. “Unified Sports allows everyone to feel included and be part of a team. We want to congratulate Corning Painted Post for their recognition by Special Olympics New York.”


About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 51,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.