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PLV South named National Unified Champion School

Papillion Times - 4/13/2017

Cheerleaders, color guard and band members lined the sidewalk approaching the Papillion-La Vista South High School entryway April 4, swaying to the beat as they formed a cheer tunnel welcoming Special Olympics officials to the school.

Students, staff members and parents packed the gym for a celebration at which the national Special Olympics office named PLV South a National Unified Champion School. With the designation, PLV South became the only Nebraska school to be recognized for its inclusive school community, and only the second nationwide.

To be named a National Unified Champion School, PLV South met 10 standards of excellence, many of which connected with Unified sports like bowling, soccer and basketball, including the school's Unified tailgate; Unified Junior ROTC; and fundraising efforts through Titan Brew and the Polar Plunge.

Tim Shriver, Special Olympics chairman and son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, presented the award Tuesday morning at an all-school assembly, congratulating the students as the driving force behind the school's achievement.

"If you learn math and science, English and social studies; if you learn auto mechanics and technology, art and music ... I hope you learn all those things, physical education, but I hope you learn one lesson above all others: that everybody has a gift. Everybody, no exceptions," Shriver said during his speech that preceded a banner presentation.

"The message with Papillion-La Vista right here, right now, with this recognition, is that you have learned that lesson and that you choose to include not just here, but for the rest of your lives."

Two-time Special Olympics World Games silver medalist and PLV South graduate Rachel Mulligan spoke, as did a number of current students and staff members. Principal Jeff Johnson congratulated the PLV South community for creating an environment where "acceptance and unity is the norm," and student Will Thornton described his time at South as "possibly the best four years of my life."

La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig read a proclamation, declaring April 4 Unified School Day.

"I have to tell you: This is probably the single greatest honor we've celebrated in my four years with the school district," Papillion La Vista Community Schools Superintendent Andy Rikli said in his address to the assembly.


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