By Norah Kelley, ’24
As a junior, I have been part of many different clubs and activities at Hanover High School. It has been fun to try out everything that I can, including writing for the newspaper and acting with the Drama Club, but the most influential part of my high school experience has been Unified Sports and Friendship Connection. These connected clubs promote the interaction of peer students with those in POST and RISE, the district’s special education programs for teens with severe disabilities.
RISE, or Reaching Independence through Support and Education, helps enrolled students build independence in academics, life skills and communications. Some students work with their teacher and paraprofessionals in a substantially separate classroom while attending elective classes with their peers. Others attend General Education classes for part of the day. POST partners with Bridgewater State University to serve students 18-22 years old, focusing on skills to help with the transition from high school to adult life.
Since 7th grade, I have been a part of Unified Sports at Hanover High School. Being a peer in this club has been an amazing experience because all the students involved are wonderful people, always willing and excited to play. Three Thursdays a month, the group has practice for the sport of the season, which is soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and kickball in the spring. These practices prepare us for games against Unified Teams from other schools or games against the HHS staff. On the remaining Thursday of each month, most of the Unified teammates gather for Friendship Connection, where we play games indoors and do crafts. Many of the crafts are presents for staff in the school or put on display for students and visitors to see.
Our first soccer game of the season will be on Oct. 20 on the Hanover Middle School soccer field. Fans are welcome to watch, and students are always encouraged to come play with us! The joy on players’ faces when they make a pass or score a goal is sure to bring a smile to all who watch.
To me, Unified has built so many meaningful relationships and connections with other students in our school. I feel like I have made a connection with all the students involved that has grown each time I come to practice. I am always so happy whenever I see anyone involved with this club, either in the halls at school or at our practices and meetings, and I can tell that the students, peers and teachers are always happy to see me. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of it for so many years. It’s the thing that I look forward to the most. No matter what has happened throughout the week, I always know that Unified and Friendship Connection will put me in an amazing mood.
Unified and Friendship Connection are always welcoming new peer members and would love to have more people join these clubs. If you are interested, practices are Thursdays from 2:30-3:30 pm, and we meet near the HHS media room. You can also contact HHS Spanish teacher Allyson Gately, who advises the clubs with Mrs. Janet Mann. The clubs hold a special place in her heart, Mrs. Gately says, “because “lifelong friendships are made.”
“The POST and RISE students bring the peer students so much joy, and vice versa,” Mrs. Gately adds. “It’s a beautiful thing to experience.”
Photos courtesy of Mrs. Gately and Mrs. Mann