The Brighton Unified teams were honored at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting as Shining Stars. Brighton Unified includes teams in three sports – basketball, bocce ball and flag football – that involve both students from the regular student body and special needs students playing together on the same teams.

Last October, Brighton High School was presented with an award and a banner by the ESPN sports network through the ESPN Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools’ National Recognition Program for its Brighton Unified initiative. The occasion was Brighton High School’s selection as one of only five high schools in the country chosen as a Unified Champion School. Each school must have met the 10 national standards of inclusion and been nominated by its state’s Special Olympics program. The other four schools selected are located in California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.

Superintendent Greg Gray tells WHMI the Brighton program has grown exponentially since it began three years ago as a way to bring more inclusiveness into the school experience, especially for special education students and those with developmental disabilities. Another point of pride is that all three Brighton Unified basketball teams came back as champions from the recent state Special Olympics basketball tournament at Western Michigan University. Competing in different divisions, they won the state championship for the second year in a row against about 600 students.

Jody Renicker and Andy Doupe, who organized Brighton Unified and enlisted the support of the school board and administration, presented an overview of the program at the meeting. Renicker also told the board that Brighton Unified members can be proud of themselves for having recently raised $3,000 for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge.(TT)