This Friday, the ESPN television sports network will be in Brighton for a ceremony honoring the Brighton High School Unified team, its coaches and team members. It will be a very special day for the students, because Brighton High School will be receiving a national banner from ESPN.

ESPN will be presenting the "Top Five" National Banner to Brighton as a Unified Champion School which has met the 10 national standards of inclusion and has been nominated by its state’s Special Olympics program. The other four schools chosen as a national Unified Champion are located in California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.

The goal of the Unified Sports Program, developed by Special Olympics, is to promote Unified Sports - in which an equal number of regular classroom and special needs students are members of the same Unified team — with the result being that students with a developmental disability are included in the overall school experience. This means inclusion in a supportive classroom environment, school-wide activities and the social environment, both in and out of the school setting.

The Unified Schools Program is also designed to promote healthy physical activity, reduce classroom bullying and exclusion, combat stereotypes and improve the school climate with activities that promote inclusion and acceptance of individual differences in people.

ESPN will arrive in advance of the banner presentation ceremony for two days of activities, including a pep rally and assembly. Superintendent Greg Gray says it will be an opportunity to demonstrate what the school district has accomplished, particularly in the area of inclusion of all students in its program.

The Brighton Unified squads compete in three sports: flag football, basketball and bocce ball. Gray has said the camaraderie between students on the teams, who may be very different from each other in some ways, is truly inspiring. The program is now in its third year in the Brighton Area Schools. (TT)