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Inclusion Revolution: Unified Winter Sports at ENHS

Unified+athletes+among+their+teammates.+
Unified athletes among their teammates.

Unified athletes among their teammates.

Ryan Pepple

Ryan Pepple

Unified athletes among their teammates.

Remy Fisher and Michael Lehman

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While East Noble athletics are an integral and important extracurricular for both students and the Kendallville community at large, there have been big and positive changes within them in the past few years. An “Inclusion Revolution,” both globally and locally, is what’s happening at ENHS this year. Every winter sport is unified, meaning that every winter sports team has at least one member with an intellectual disability. Mr. Ryan Pepple, a unified sports advocate and coach, added some insight to this incredible Inclusion Revolution that is happening.

“How cool is this?!” Pepple first exclaimed when asked about the unified sports, portraying true excitement.

As a teacher and coach who has been with EN for more than 12 years, Mr. Pepple loves his students and recently decided to produce a program that is inclusive of everyone. His program, unofficially entitled “Unified Knights,” provides a chance for those with intellectual disabilities and setbacks to enjoy athletics with their classmates instead of being completely closed off.

Five years ago, Pepple wanted an opportunity for all of his students with disabilities to feel included, and thus the Unified Athletes program was born. Through his work with Mr. Keith Hoffar, a long-time ENHS history teacher and coach, he realized that persuading students to become involved is one of the best things you can do.

Unified Knights are as follows: Marcus Teders on the boys swim and dive team, Destiny Collins and Kody Campbell as the stars of the girls and boys basketball teams, Madison Cunningham as a veteran cheerleader, and John Herron as a champion wrestler.

“The unified sports program has changed the lives of unified athletes, their family, their teammates, coaches and fans,” Pepple said. “They are a part of something they never thought was possible growing up.”

The future of this program is currently unknown. Pepple hopes that the program will grow into more unified sports being in motion, aside from the current unified bocce ball and track teams, as well as every regular sport being inclusive. Receiving positive feedback from the community, it is a fact that the unified program is not only in support of those with disabilities, but instead, everyone.

For now, EN students and members of the community will continue to enjoy the program and can anticipate where it will go in the coming years.

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