By Mike Kruzman /

Howell High School is being recognized as one of the prestigious few in the state for its athletic programs comprised of students both with and without intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics North America has declared Howell High School to be a 2020 Unified Champion School National Banner School. Howell is one of 155 schools nationwide and only 5 in Michigan to receive the honor. Schools become eligible by meeting 10 standards of excellence while demonstrating a commitment to inclusion towards students with special needs. Those standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The standards include having an active Unified Sports program, inclusive youth leadership, whole-school engagement, and a sustainability plan.

Howell has achieved this accomplishment barely more than a year-and-a-half since kicking off their Unified program.

Howell High School principal Jason Schrock said, in a release, that this is an incredible honor and highlights their commitment to creating an inclusive environment where students feel welcome and have an opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. Howell High School speech therapist and Unified Champion Schools coach Susie Mitchell said the support that the school and community has shown their student-athletes has been amazing.

Special Olympics Michigan will be working with Howell High School to plan a recognition ceremony.