The Student News Site of Royal Oak High School

Acorn Newsmagazine

Acorn Newsmagazine

The Student News Site of Royal Oak High School

Acorn Newsmagazine

The Purest Form of Sport

ROHS is named a Unified Champion School

ROHS was officially named a Unified Champion School in February. This honor is bestowed on schools by the Special Olympics to signify and applaud the efforts made to become an inclusive environment for all. The Royal Oak Unified Basketball Team celebrated the event before their game against North Farmington, unveiling a banner in the school’s gym. The ROHS community is proud of this distinction, and the benefits that come with it.

ROHS Athletic Director, Brian Gordon, takes great pride in ROHS being designated as a Unified Champion School.

“It’s a great honor. It shows and demonstrates the commitment that we have to inclusion. It’s something to be very proud of,” he said.

Gordon explained that the honor of being a Unified Champion School extends beyond athletics, into the school’s culture. 

“It’s about how we are here at Royal Oak and how we are an accepting society [as demonstrated through] our culture in this building and our school district. It just goes to show that we care about everybody,” he said. 

Gordon witnessed the growth of the Unified Program across Michigan. Before returning to Royal Oak, he worked at Novi High School. During his time in Novi, he collaborated with the Brighton Athletic Director to open up league play for many of the Unified teams. Now, over 140 schools across the state participate in this program.

The Unified Program at ROHS has impacted many, creating that lasting feeling of joy and pride after witnessing the efforts being made to promote inclusivity.

“Unified is probably the thing that keeps me going through most days. It just always makes me smile, so I just feel very lucky for that opportunity,” said junior Sarah Barnett. 

This school year marks the first time Barnett participated in Unified Sports, playing for both the soccer and basketball teams. 

Barnett enjoys the sense of community that Unified Sports generates.

“My favorite part about this team is my teammates and the family community,” she said. “Everybody is super welcoming and it makes me smile every time I get to go to practice.” 

Like Barnett, freshman Grant Hatterman, appreciates the his experiences on the Unified soccer and basketball teams,  

“Basketball is getting more and more fun,” said Hatterman, who says that his favorite aspect of Unified Sports is “playing with his friends, and creating close connections with them.”

 Hatterman loves going for 3-pointers, just like his favorite player Jaden Ivey, whose number 23 has become a big inspiration to him. Hatterman looks to grow his athletic career here at Royal Oak, where he hopes to participate in as many sports as possible. 

Like Hatterman, Devin Burton appreciates the closely knit culture that Unified Sports offers. His favorite part of it all is “just being there.” 

Burton’s love for basketball has been encouraged through the Unified Program, and what it offers for all students.

“It’s been amazing getting to play basketball,” he said. 

Being a Unified Champion School is an honor for the entire 


“It means everything to us because we have been working on it for the past four years. Everything that we have done for the program has built up to this, and it’s just really awesome,”  said senior Natalie Pyciak.

Pyciak has been involved with the Unified program for two years now, working as a partner on the team. She dedicates much of her time to the program, advocating for those with disabilities throughout the school.

Junior Kiersten Ciccone first joined the Unified Program as a partner on the basketball team. Ciccone said that taking the LINKS class offered here at Royal Oak encouraged her to get involved. 

“I am very passionate about doing something involved with Unified, so this was a perfect opportunity for that,” she said.

Ciccone emphasized her love for the Unified program, and the unique environment it provides. 

“It’s unmatched from any other sports team. I’ve been in sports before, and it’s just different,” she said. “Everyone is so nice, welcoming, and patient. It’s just great.” 

Player Amy Clegg shared her favorite memory with Unified Sports: making her first basket. 

“It was amazing to hear everyone cheering my name and clapping. I was so happy,”  she said.

Fan turnout has served as inspiration for the players on the Unified teams, and the opportunity to play sports has been a unanimously positive experience for all participants. 

As a coach for Unified Sports, Elizabeth Reynolds, takes great pride in her role. 

“It’s my favorite thing I do here at Royal Oak. Getting to coach Unified Sports really pushed that relationship and understanding piece, as opposed to focusing on the sports aspect. It has been a ton of fun and is extremely powerful,” she said.

Reynolds explained some of the benefits that come with the title, including a grant, which will add funds to the Unified Program, allowing it to expand within ROHS and create new opportunities for the students to get involved.

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About the Contributor
Sophie Matthews
Sophie Matthews, Co-Editor in Chief
Hello! My name is Sophie Matthews and I am a senior. It is my second year on staff, and I am the Co-Editor in Chief for the 2023-24 school year! I absolutely love the Acorn and everything it has to offer. My favorite aspect is getting to meet so many new people and hear about the amazing accomplishments of my peers! On the rare occasion of me not doing Acorn-related stuff, you can find me out on the golf course, playing soccer, binge-reading, listening to Harry Styles, or spending time with family and friends. I’m an avid hockey fan, and am absolutely obsessed with my cat Mouse. I am so lucky to be part of the Acorn’s 96th volume, and am extremely excited for what this year has to offer!

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