Social Inclusion Through Sport

John Jay and Chappaqua’s scores were tied in the teens when freshman Ellie got the ball. She jumped and shot from just outside the key. The swish set the scoreboard in motion! Ellie and teammate Lucas took a midcourt moment to celebrate with a special handshake that included knuckle bumps and fluttering fingers. The Wolves were feeling good!

Unified Basketball is all about feeling good. The program, an initiative of the Special Olympics, joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team with the goal of promoting inclusion.

“We complete that mission every game,” said Assistant Principal Kim Piccolino, who coaches the team with guidance counselor Carlyn Bochicchio.

One facet of a district-wide commitment to inclusion

Unified is only one facet of John Jay’s commitment to inclusivity and supporting all students in working towards their potential. Two years ago, the middle and high schools started Best Buddies, an afterschool club that creates social connections for students with disabilities. “Everyone feels accepted and welcomed,” said Hailey, who is the president of John Jay’s Best Buddies chapter and the New York State representative to the organization’s national conference.

Alumni Returns

Just before halftime, there was a buzz of excitement in the sidelines. A young man with a presidential demeanor, sporting a new John Jay hat, was heading for the bench.

Trevor Scambos, Class of 2009, was in the house! Several of his former teachers, there watching their students play, were delighted to catch up with him. Trevor is a graduate of George Mason University’s LIFE program, a supportive academic environment, where he continues to live. He’s also the official Spirit Manager of Mason’s men’s basketball. Being a fan is one of his superpowers.

Teacher Matt Rocchio and Trevor Scampos

New Award to Honor Kindness

He gave Hallie a big hug; they’d met earlier that day. As Assistant Principal Piccolino’s intern, she sat in on a meeting at which Trevor and his family announced they were creating the Trevor Scambos Award to honor a freshman, sophomore or junior who’s shown exemplary kindness.

Trevor watched the game intently, sitting beside his former teaching assistant Matt Rocchio. Unified Sports wasn’t invented when he was in high school. He would have loved it.