Rowan University’s Family Weekend highlighted by Unified sports program

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Students attend Hollybash and participate in multiple festivities on Friday, April 20, 2018. Photos by Nicole Mingo and Assistant Photo Editor Miguel Martinez

This past weekend Rowan University saw many interactive and exciting events for the 2019 Family Weekend.

While some were designed to give the families a chance to try new activities with the college students, there were also events that were designed to highlight some of the best parts of Rowan University for the parents.

One of these events took place on Sunday morning, which were the weekly games for the Rowan Unified Sports Program. For this event, the program invited families to come experience the fun and sense of community these games give everyone involved.

The program, which was founded in 2012 and even earned ESPN recognition in 2018, combines Special Olympic athletes and Rowan students, who are known as partners, on teams to compete in sports like soccer and basketball. 

This week, the soccer season was in full swing for the teams. Excitement was in the air, and it was clear how important this was to the participants.

“What I think is important about it is it creates friendships that go beyond the classroom,” Co-President of the program junior Kyle Perez said. “These Special Olympics athletes don’t really have that much of an opportunity to socialize with college students, so this is a great chance for them to make new friendships and create new bonds with these college students.” 

Parent Anne Poole, mother of athlete Peter Poole and partner Joseph Poole also explained why this program is so important to everyone.

“It creates a community of acceptance,” Poole said. “The athletes, their interactions is really only with their groups, so being here gives them a chance to be on a college campus and feel that type of loyalty to a college.”

She also explained how it affects the Rowan students who volunteer to be apart of the program and the parents who come out and watch. 

“I think as a parent of a partner, [I notice] that the partners get to see what life is like with kids who have challenges,” Poole said. “So it makes them more compassionate, it makes them more accepting and it is something that if you are not in this realm, you don’t get it and once you do, your eyes are open, because it is such a positive place.” 

And that was something that everyone who came out to experience the event for the first time on Sunday can definitely agree with.

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