Return to Headlines

Loudoun Valley Designated Unified Champion School

Loudoun Valley High School officially became a Special Olympics National Banner Unified Champion School on November 21st.


Principal Sue Ross said the attributes that led to this award have been on display at Valley for years. “This morning our school is being recognized for something that has always been standard practice for a long time: for inclusion. It’s been a long-standing belief here that students of all abilities are capable, can learn and belong with us every step of the way.


“We know that there is more that can be done and we are ready to continue our journey.”


Special education teacher Cynthia Clark, who leads Valley’s Partners Club and is a member of the Area 14 Special Olympics board, said she knew Valley could attain banner status as soon as she read the award criteria. “There were 10 standards over three areas we had to achieve and I knew it could be done.”


Clark, who coaches the unified basketball team, said finding athletes for unified sports (the Vikings also have a track team) was not a problem. “With such a wonderful student body, it was easy to find partners and players. The support here has been amazing.”


The other areas are whole school engagement and inclusive youth opportunities. “This is where I applaud our staff and student body. Being a unified school happens in everyday moments.” Clark said Valley students are friends to others with special needs in the cafeteria, the hallways and on the bus. “This student body, along with a supportive staff, administration and a fabulous Special Education Department, is dedicated to making this the unified generation.”


“Loudoun Valley has had the foundation of inclusion embedded in the school for many years thanks to the staff, administration and student body,” said Veronica Jennings, senior director of Special Olympics, Potomac Region. She noted Loudoun Valley and Freedom High School, which holds its banner ceremony December 20th, are the first Loudoun schools to attain this honor.


Dr. Joy Cavagnaro, the parent of three Loudoun Valley graduates and a longtime Special Olympics coach, told students how rare becoming a Special Olympics National Banner Unified Champion School is. Only 173 schools received this designation in 2019, bringing the nationwide total to 394. “The Unified Champion school is shaping a generation, your generation, that welcomes everyone. With sports as the foundation, this program offers a unique combination of activities that equip young people with tools and training to create climates of acceptance and inclusion.”


The banner ceremony included a performance by an adaptive music class and the Loudoun Valley band.


Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Dr. Asia Jones attended the ceremony.