Unified Club Spreads Message of Inclusion at Champlin Park
It’s not every day that high school students have the opportunity to leave campus and go bowling, but a recent trip to Bowlero in Brooklyn Park wasn’t a normal field trip for a group of Champlin Park students.
The group is part of the Unified Club. Students say the club is a glimpse of what the future could look like if people start living with the mindset that “it’s cool to include.”
“We have a group of students with and without intellectual disabilities who get together, they have a great time,” said Maia Miller, the work experience teacher at Champlin Park High School. “We’re hoping to really just spread the message of inclusion throughout our school and community.”
Miller started the Unified Club nearly two years ago. It’s associated with Special Olympics, which means they compete against other local Unified Clubs in various sports.
But for the students involved, such as senior John Lindgren, competition is only a small part of what this club offers.
“It’s really a good idea to spread inclusion,” Lindgren said. “That’s our whole motto is to spread inclusion.”
Breaking down barriers
In previous years, there weren’t many opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to get to know people like Champlin Park’s standout volleyball player Allie Kopp, but Unified Club helps to break down those barriers.
“People with disabilities are definitely not any different than anyone else,” said Kopp, a senior at Champlin Park. “We’re all the same, and we all should be friends and get along, and everyone should be included.”
The Unified Club has about 30 students right now, but the hope is to get more of the school population to join the “inclusion revolution” and develop a mentality that will stick with them the rest of their lives.
“We really just want to make it a norm at our school that inclusion is just what we do,” Miller said. “It’s who we are. It’s what we stand for.”