Tiverton High is the Special Olympics Unified National Championship School

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TIVERTON — Several banners marking great accomplishments hang inside the gymnasium at Tiverton High School, and the most recent to go up belongs to the unified basketball team.

Tiverton was recently named the Special Olympics Unified National Champion school, one of three schools in Rhode Island to receive the honor this year.

The Tigers are led by head coaches Michelle Bennett and David Landoch, both of whom have been involved with the program for about 10 years. In that decade, it was never about winning, but rather about the bonds and relationships created, they said.

“They love the friendships that form from play,” Bennett said after a recent high school competition. The atmosphere the assists create for players is what really makes the game exciting and fun to watch, she said.

“I’ve seen a huge change in our partners because they’ve opened up more and are more insightful with the kids,” Bennett said of the student connection.

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“It’s the highlight of their year,” Bennett said of what the players think of the sport. Even though kids love basketball, coaches get just as much fun out of it, Bennett said.

“I love coaching this team,” she said. “I can’t wait to be in March every year and see the joy of the children.”

To become a Special Olympics Unified National Champion School, 10 National Standards of Excellence – developed by a national panel of Special Olympics and education community leaders – must be met.

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“A Unified Special Olympics Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, commitment, and respect for all members of the student body and staff,” according to the criteria.

This award means a lot to the Tiverton Unified Basketball Team, and the banner hanging on the wall is a source of pride, Bennett said.

“Not many high schools receive this award,” she said.


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