Dear New Yorkers,
The opportunity to play on a sports team is a critical part of the full school experience. It’s an enrichment activity that forges new friendships, builds teamwork skills, and develops leaders. Playing on a team also makes school a more positive, inclusive space for all students.
I know firsthand the joy and confidence that come from playing sports. Basketball, baseball, football, and tennis were a huge part of my life growing up in Queens. I lived for afternoons and weekends when my brothers and the kids from the neighborhood would go out and shoot hoops and play two-hand touch football on my block. Playing sports gave me valuable life skills—and I believe all our students deserve these opportunities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; many students with disabilities have been traditionally excluded from school sports.
Until now! Earlier this week, I was thrilled to announce that more than 1,700 students with disabilities can now participate in Special Olympics track and field, volleyball, and basketball during their school day. An afterschool unified basketball league is open to an additional 200 high school students with and without disabilities, while 300 middle school students with and without disabilities can join a unified bocce league.
I am especially grateful to our partner, Special Olympics New York, for committing to $50,000 in funding, supporting the training of educators and coaches, and providing sports equipment and team uniforms. Through this partnership, we can now ensure access to Special Olympics sports at all District 75 schools. This will truly be a game-changer (pun intended!) for our students.
This historic expansion tells students, families, and educators that we see you—we welcome, value, and support you in every way we can, inside the classroom and beyond. I’m proud of the ways our leaders look to innovate and open doors of opportunity, and I hope that our new initiative makes us a model of inclusion and healthy enrichment activities. And most importantly, I’m thrilled that it gives every student the chance to develop the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
David C. Banks