The students and faculty at Tiverton High School have reason to feel proud lately. Since being designated a Special Olympics National Unified Champion School last month, the high school is proving it …
The students and faculty at Tiverton High School have reason to feel proud lately. Since being designated a Special Olympics National Unified Champion School last month, the high school is proving it lives up to the honor, and one student is showing appreciation for his classmates with a personal website dedicated to them.
Aidan McCrosson, a member of Unified Basketball at Tiverton High School, talked recently about his senior project, a website he created for his graduating class.
“I wanted to create this website to show support for my class because we’ve been through a lot with the pandemic and all,” he said.
McCrosson is one of more than 100 Tiverton seniors graduating in June, but first they must meet a series of prerequisites, including a senior project complete with a research paper, oral presentation, and a “product” such as the website McCrosson created.
Appropriately titled “THS Class of 2022,” the website includes photos and videos of the seniors, as well as a memorial to former THS student John “JC” Barreto, who passed away in December 2021. “He was a friend to everybody in my class,” said McCrosson.
The website also includes insights on the students’ experiences at Tiverton High School and their plans and hopes for the future.
“Where do you see yourself in 20 years?” McCrosson asks his classmates, and the answers range from silly to ambitious, representing the essence of the high school experience.
A Unified culture
Tiverton High School’s commitment to the “whole school engagement” is what earned the school its Unified Champion status.
“Our goal is about inclusion and acceptance throughout the whole building, in every program that we offer, and in all the classrooms — everything we can possibly do,” said David Landoch, an educator at the school for more than 20 years.
Landoch has been with the Unified program since its inception, along with Michelle Bennett, a fellow educator who has led the Unified Basketball team with Landoch for 10 years. Around the same time, the pair also started the Unified Tigers.
Formerly known as the Youth Action Committee (YAC), the Unified Tigers program fosters inclusion throughout the whole school and builds relationships between students with and without disabilities.
“That organization totally changed the culture of the school. Everyone is just so accepted. It’s really cool,” said Landoch.
McCrosson is one student who has benefitted from the school’s inclusive culture, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by him. With his senior project wrapped up and graduation fast approaching, McCrosson reflects on his hard work and academic accomplishments while giving credit to the support he received from his peers, teachers, and Senior Project mentor Julie Delcourt, the director of communications at Tiverton Public Schools.
“I just enjoy the school,” said McCrosson, “I love all the teachers and everyone there. They’re really friendly, and I just really appreciate everything they do, and them showing support for everything I do.”
A benefit for all students
Eydn Bdzula, a fellow senior and one of the presidents of the Unified Tigers program, said she loves the inclusive culture at her school, and she believes it benefits all the students.
“It’s made the kids with disabilities more comfortable, especially with having a Unified group and Unified Basketball. They get to know more people, and it’s nice for the other kids to see them learning like everyone else, because we’re all people, you know.”
The Unified Champion banner hanging in the Tiverton High School gymnasium is an obvious testament to the program’s success, but perhaps more so are the students graduating from the school with a greater sense of gratitude, purpose and compassion for their peers.
“The school has warmed up because of it. It’s an accepting environment, and it’s just fun to see,” said Landoch when asked about the school’s social climate since adopting an inclusive culture.
“It’s really come a long way. There are kids building boats [with an aid] with the other kids, or you go down to the music wing and they’re learning to play the guitar with the other kids, and they’re just accepted and included in everything. It doesn’t matter where you go. It’s really special.”
The Unified program provides equal opportunities to all students, but it has other unexpected benefits as well. “We get a lot of students who go into the field when they come out of our Special Education Unified Tiger group, because of the experience that they had with it,” said Landoch.
As for McCrosson, the soon-to-be-graduate has big plans for his future. “I’m really excited to graduate. Although I’m going to miss everyone there, I am definitely going to have an amazing future.”
After high school, McCrosson will attend Project SEARCH, a career development program at Newport Hospital that provides training to individuals with disabilities. Upon completion of the program, McCrosson will enroll at CCRI, while Eydn Bdzula is headed to the Nursing Program at UMass Dartmouth.
To learn what the rest of the senior class is up to after high school, visit Aidan McCrosson’s website, where you can also watch a livestream of the graduation ceremony on June10 at 6 p.m. It can be viewed here: https://sites.google.com/tivertonschools.org/ths-class-of-2022