Scituate High ‘unifies’ during Spirit Week

Scituate High ‘unifies’ during Spirit Week

The Scituate High School cheerleaders react as Scituate and Ponaganset’s unifed volleyball teams competed during Unity Day. (Breeze photos by Michael Smith)

SCITUATE – The wall-to-wall crowd was whooping and hollering inside the packed gym. The entire Scituate student body was stomping to the familiar beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” cheering on their team.

Meanwhile, the school’s marching band was drumming up the energy into a crescendo.

This was not a championship game, it was about something more – unity.

Unity Day, as Scituate High was calling it, is part of the school’s Spirit Week leading up to Homecoming Weekend, but it wasn’t the football team the school was cheering on.

The Scituate unified volleyball team, a team composed of students with intellectual disabilities and those without, took center-stage to take on the unified team from Ponaganset High School.

The entire student body was wearing heather gray T-shirts sporting the phrase “Go Spartans Get Unified.”

The unified team is part of Project Unify, a state-wide program from the combined efforts of the Rhode Island Special Olympics, The Rhode Island Interscholastic League, and the Rhode Island Department of Education to team special needs students in gaining the experience of new social opportunities and making friends they may not have otherwise with non-disability students who learn character development and serve as mentors.

The Unity Day was designed as a “day to celebrate that we’re all one happy family,” said Scituate High Principal Michael Hassell.

Leading the Scituate unified volleyball team was reading teacher and coach Anne Pedro, who was high-fiving players coming in and off the court.

Pedro, who played volleyball as a student, was approached to coach the unified team last year, but schedule conflicts didn’t allow her to accept the position.

However, this year was different.

“When my principal told me the position was available again this year, I was really excited to take it, said Pedro. “I have never coached a sport, but between my knowledge of the game and 11 years of teaching in the classroom, I thought I could handle it.

“The kids and I are having fun,” added Pedro. “Everyone I’ve met in the program is fun.”

Pedro said the team only had their first practice three days prior to the game.

“We went over and learned the basics and had an hour practice,” Pedro said. “We have six more games after this one.”

As part of a brief seven-game season, the Scituate unified volleyball team will next play at Bishop Hendricken on Sept. 28.

Local high schools in towns such as Scituate, Smithfield, Johnston, Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, and North Providence all are participating in Project Unify.

After the traditional handshakes at mid-court, Hassell addressed the student body at the center of the gym and was impressed with the display he saw from the players and students.

“This was an awesome, awesome day,” said Hassell, as his words raised the volume in the gym even more.

Off in a corner, a group of students was screaming and jumping during the entire game. Scituate senior Terence Austirman was leading the way.

“This is crazy and fun that we’re all sitting together,” said Austirman. “This is really good to have.”

Fellow senior Tyler Baccaire echoed his friend’s sentiments. “It’s amazing, I thought I would never be so hyped for this.”

Sophomore Liam Drury was wearing a sky-blue bandana and had his face painted in the spirit of the day.

“It’s fun,” said Drury. “It’s good to get students together.”

Scituate High SCHOOL’s unified volleyball team, made up students with and without disabilites, above, stand for the national anthem during Unity Day at the school Sept. 22.
Scituate High School reading specialist teacher Anne Pedro, bottom left, gives a pep talk to players on Scituate’s unified volleyball team made up of students with and without disabilities during Unity Day at the school.