The Power of Project UNIFY

I recently attended a Project UNIFY Rally for Special Olympics New Jersey and Jersey City Public Schools. It was an energetic and wonderful atmosphere at the Yanitelli Center at St. Peter’s College. 40 schools were present and each was represented by 39 students. Each school put on a performance about respect and accepting all abilities. The performances that stood out to me – and really helped to energize the crowd – were done by Rafael de J. Cordero, P.S. #37, Nicolous Copernicus School, P.S. #25, Dr. Michael Conti, P.S. #5, Martin Center of Arts, M.S. #41, Anthony J. Infante, and P.S. #31.

The performance by P.S. #37 was a song about respecting people of all abilities and sevenstudents had letters that spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The performance by P.S. #25 was a song about being amazing just the way you are. The students from P.S. #5 dressed nicely and used body language in their performance. The students from M.S. #41 used the following slogan, “You respect me, I respect you … we are all beautiful people!” P.S. #31 performed the song, When you wish upon a star and focused on the acceptance of all abilities.

Dr. Michael Fowlin gave an entertaining performance that had a serious message for everyone in the audience about people with different abilities.  The mere feeling of energy and noise from the crowd filled you with excitement. It was a celebration of all abilitieswithin Jersey City Public Schools.

While I didn’t take any video, there was a great video blog done by My Autism Voice that shares some of the amazing performance from the Jersey City Schools Project UNIFY Rally:

If all state programs did an event like this, their school communities could benefit greatly – impacting not only on the students but entire school communities.

Of course there are a few things that need to be in place before such an event to occur. Based on the rally I attended, here’s a guide to putting on your own great Project UNIFY Rally:

  • First, you need the support of a school board so you can have full participation from local schools. You’ll also need a venue and funding to put on the event.
  • Next, each school would need to hold a competition to select which students would represent the school and perform for the event. Performances should be youth-led and focus on respect, inclusion, unity or acceptance. The performances should include students of all abilities.
  • A great tool to help schools plan for the rally is Get Into It, which helps teachers with explaining and teaching the different aspects of inclusion, acceptance and respect. Movies that Move is another great tool to use in preparation for a rally because it is a visual way for students to learn about respect, unity, and accepting all abilities.
  • Now bring all the various pieces together along with a great and energetic EMC and some VIPs and you have will have a fun, great and powerful Project UNIFY Rally. Also, make sure you recognized the Unified Sports teams from the schools as a way to show how sports and respect go hand in hand. Just remember to have a great and fun time.

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