GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Grand Rapids Public Schools participated in the Unified Champion Basketball Tournament put on by Special Olympics Michigan.

GRPS has participated in the event in an effort to foster a culture of inclusion for scholars of all abilities. This year, eight teams from GRPS participated in the tournament held at the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center.

Deb McMaster is a GRPS special education teacher at Kent Hills. She worked hard with her scholars to prepare them for the tournament. 

“It’s heartwarming for me to see them building those relationships,” McMaster said. “They’re learning problem-solving skills and how to work together.”

Kayla Kuczynski, the Unified Champion Schools Coordinator, works to bring Unified programming to schools throughout the area.

“Social inclusion is really important. Students are at our schools all day and we want them to feel like they belong,” she said. “We want all students who have the opportunity to participate in their school sports teams, to make friends with students who might not ever have the opportunity to interact in the classroom, to be able to come together and build relationships with one another.”

There were a total of 30 teams that participated in the event this year.

“It doesn’t matter if we win or lose because the best thing is we had fun,” said Jeremiah, a Kent Hills fifth-grade scholar.

“I feel happy!” said Sariyah, a Coit Creative Arts Academy scholar in third grade.