Project Unify at White County Middle School recently received national recognition – and a huge surprise from Hasbro Games.
The group was named a Special Olympics National Unified Champion School in September and was the first school in Georgia to receive this designation, said sponsor Julie Collins.
“It feels wonderful,” she said. “It almost feels surreal. Like I said, it started as a small movement in 2016 as an afterschool club, and it’s just grown into a school-wide (movement) and I love that.”
Because it was a National Unified Champion School, the club was also recognized by ESPN Honor Roll, Collins said.
“It feels wonderful to be recognized, not just state level, but national level for our kids to get this recognition,” Collins said. “Being in a small town you don’t get a lot of those opportunities, so for us to be chosen, not just by Special Olympics North America, but by ESPN and Hasbro. It’s
surreal. It was ESPN Honor Roll. They pick 36 schools a year and they partner with Special Olympics and they pick Nationally Unified Champion Schools.”
White County Middle School was also one of five of schools recognized by Hasbro Games, where they were honored with a special program on Thursday, Dec. 10, Collins said. During the virtual event, club members spread out in the cafeteria to watch the virtual celebration, while the rest of the school was able to watch a livestream of the celebration from their classrooms. Following the celebration, more 900 games were given out to every student at the school.
During the celebration at the middle school, Collins thanked the students for all that they have done with the club.
“I’m so proud of all of you and what you’ve done,” Collins said. “This couldn’t be what it is without you. Anybody can have a vision, but it takes the students coming together and making that vision come to life, and you continue to do that, and I’m so thankful. I want to thank Sharon Brown. She is from White County Special Olympics and does so much for our county.”
“I’m just so very proud of the school being recognized and all the hard work that Julie Collins and the Project Unify kids have done to just make being kind a priority and it makes a big difference,” said WCMS Principal Kristi Gerrells. “For them to be recognized not just at the state level, but the national level, is just phenomenal. I’m just so proud and thrilled to be a part of it.”
White County School System Superintendent Dr. Laurie Burkett echoed the sentiment.
“By teaching students about compassion and kindness and creating a culture of inclusion for everyone, our Project Unify has received national recognition,” she said. “And more importantly than all the recognition is the safe place that has been created and will be sustained for our students and our community.”