John Thompson, the Athletic Director at Brighton High School, has been accorded the Unified Champion Schools Leadership Award for the 2018-19 school year.

The award will be presented to Thompson on May 29th during the annual Coach and Volunteer Banquet at the 2019 State Summer Games at Central Michigan University. Each year Special Olympics recognizes a leader in the Unified Champion Schools program who exemplifies inclusion, leadership and creating opportunities for all students with a school or school district.

Last October, Brighton High School was recognized by ESPN and Special Olympics as one of the top five schools in the country for Unified Champion Schools by its inclusion of special needs students in the overall school program and in Unified sports. A school-wide pep rally included a presentation by ESPN and the hanging of a banner from the ESPN Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program.

Brighton Superintendent Greg Gray tells WHMI that Thompson was instrumental in developing the Unified program at Brighton and in Brighton High School getting the national award. Last year, both Thompson and Brian Gordon, Athletic Director at Novi High School, worked tirelessly to promote Unified Basketball League Play. As a result, when schools in the KLAA now compete in varsity and JV sports, they bring their Unified Basketball teams as well. What started with 6 schools in the league a year ago has now blossomed into more than 40 schools statewide.

The Brighton Unified teams play three sports: flag football, basketball, and bocce ball, with regular and special education students playing on the same teams. In the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program, students come together to play Unified Sports, engage in inclusive youth leadership and initiate school-wide awareness campaigns. (TT)