In Pittsboro on Thursday morning

Unification was name of the game at Northwood

Jordan-Matthews and Northwood continue innovative games for students with intellectual disabilities

BY DON BEANE
Posted 1/17/19

There were no multi-millionaireathletes on the court at Northwood onThursday morning in Pittsboro.

But there were some bona fide stars.

Northwood and Jordan-Matthews competedin a Unified …

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In Pittsboro on Thursday morning

Unification was name of the game at Northwood

Jordan-Matthews and Northwood continue innovative games for students with intellectual disabilities

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Posted

There were no multi-millionaire
athletes on the court at Northwood on
Thursday morning in Pittsboro.

But there were some bona fide stars.

Northwood and Jordan-Matthews competed
in a Unified basketball game that
transcended athletics, and represented everything
that is right in Chatham County.

Students with intellectual disabilities
from the two county schools went at it
for seven quarters in front a raucous student
body cheering for both sides, and an
atmosphere completed by the Northwood
band and cheerleaders.

Unified Sports is
an initiative of the Special Olympics.
After the event opened with a stirring
rendition of the National Anthem,
Northwood student Ben Cohen read the
Special Olympics Oath.
From there the action was non-stop on
both ends of the side courts as the teams
went at it with the benches swapping out
at the end of each quarter.
Students from the PEPI (Physical Education
Pupil Instructor) curriculum also
took to the court to help with the flow of
the game.
When the final buzzer sounded, Northwood
was awarded the win.

“The host team is always awarded the
trophy,” said Northwood Co-Athletic
Director Jason Amy, who headed up
the event along with Jordan-Matthews’
Andrew Poock. “We also have football,
kickball, soccer, and track and field
games during the school year. Andrew
called me on the way from Siler City saying
he hated to give it up. There is a lot of
good spirited fun between our schools.”

Poock agreed with some good old
fashioned ribbing.

“I’m not sure about the scorekeeping,”
laughed Poock in jest. “We rolled them
84-14 in football so I guess we will let
Jason and Northwood keep it.”

All joking aside, Amy, a military
veteran and former wrestling coach, and
Poock, the architect of some of the top defensive
lines ever to play at Jordan-Matthews, both went on to
explain how important
these events are for their
respective schools.

“We have around 20
kids in what we call our
Basic Life Skills (BSL)
program at Jordan-Matthews,
and Jason and
Northwood have around
68,” said Poock. “Gone
are the days where these
kids are secluded in a
room somewhere with
little interaction with the
student body. These kids
are in art, construction,
agricultural science, and
our AVID (Advancement
Via Individual Determination)
students come down to play games and
do projects with them, and
probably 25 teachers a day
here at J-M come in and
spend time with them.”

Poock says the games
between the two schools
has only enhanced the
feeling of belonging for
his students with intellectual
disabilities.

“Jason does a tremendous
job with Special
Olympics over there at
Northwood in the spring,”
Poock said. “Since we
adults compete on the
golf course, we figured
it’d be fun to compete and
have a little fun in other
sports besides the Special
Olympics just one time
a year. We had a kickball
game, then softball and
the turnout was amazing
with teachers bringing
out students, and the
administration, community
members, and county
office personnel coming to
witness the events.”

Amy added that the BLS
students are now wellknown
and accepted in the
school, thanks in part to
the competitions.

“They are now celebrities
when they walk
around the school and
are not viewed as students
with disabilities,”
added Amy. “The bond
our students have created
working together to
achieve goals has brought
inclusion to its highest
levels, which can be seen
in the halls, in the cafeteria
where nobody talked to
these BSL students before,
but now sit with them and
are real friends.”

Poock continues on the
change in the perception
of the BLS students due to
the popularity fostered by
these competitions.

“The students at J-M
have embraced our guys
and it’s nice to see the interaction
on a daily basis.
We walk up and down the
halls and you can hear the
kids not only shout their
names, but also slap high
fives which makes them
just light up!”

Of course these games
come with a lot of hard
work as Amy and Poock
have now incorporated
the bands, cheerleaders,
smoke machines, the
choirs for the National Anthem,
and more to create a
memorable atmosphere.

“Every time I see our
kids smile it makes all
the hard work and effort
priceless,” emphasized
Amy, whoses daughter
Kayla helped win a $2,500
grant for the Unified
sports in Chatham County.

“By guiding our younger
generation to learn the
joys of teaching and the
effects it has on students
to become physically and
emotionally better people
is why we do this.”

Poock says sometimes
the joy created by these
events for his students is
almost overwhelming.

“They are constantly
asking what sport will
we be focusing on next
and when can we practice
together. I can’t really
describe what it does for
kids emotionally because I
think you have to experience
it yourself. I know
it makes me extremely
proud to watch the kids
from both schools find
success when they make a
play or shot, and sometimes
its so tearjerkng and
I just have to walk away
because I can’t believe
how blessed I am to work
with such a great group of
kids.”

The relationship between
the two schools
goes past Unified Sports
as the programs now also
have cookouts, lunches,
dances, and go bowling on
a monthly basis.

“It continues to grow
annually and that’s such
an exciting thing,” closed
Amy, who took a contingent
from Northwood to
the Global Unified Youth
Exchange Conference in
Beijing, China, in December
of 2017. “We have
softball, and track and
field left for this school
year. And we are expecting
more great things.”

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