ASTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Doesn't matter your background, your make or model or anything like that," said Principal Patrick Sasse. "We want our students feeling welcome, accepted, that they have the abilities to do everything that everyone else can do."
Sasse has been the Principal at Sun Valley High School for five years. Since then, he has carried out a mission that preceded his tenure: including students of all abilities in all activities.
"This year, I like to play bocce because I never got involved in sports and it's a great sport to play with," said 10th-grade student Destiny Robinson.
Robinson is a student-athlete within the Unified Sports program, which is a part of Special Olympics Pennsylvania. This year, Sun Valley High School was recognized as one of their National Banner Unified Champion Schools, a distinction carried by only 17 schools in Pennsylvania at the moment.
"A Unified Champion School brings students together with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team," said Matt Aaron, President and CEO of Special Olympics Pennsylvania. "That magic happens not because somebody from Special Olympics comes in and does it. It happens because the students make it happen."
Today, students and faculty gathered for a celebration as the official banner of recognition was unfurled. Shortly after, they enjoyed fun in the sun with the annual April Showers Plunge. In a normal year, the charity challenge involves students jumping in ice-cold pools at Drexel University. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school teamed up with the local fire department to bring an artificial April shower to the school yard.
"You truly see kind of like that leap of faith," said Patrick Sasse. "You see them trusting their peer buddy, saying we can do this together, and truly taking the plunge."
It was a particularly special day for Destiny Robinson, who aspires to become a firefighter.
"They help us and they save people that are hurt and injured," she said. "I love helping people and I care about people."
So far, students have raised roughly $4,000, which supports Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
To learn more about SOPA or the Unified Sports Programs, visit their website.