League teaches students what classroom cannot - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

League teaches students what classroom cannot

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Brandon Mudd Brandon Mudd
Dawn Foley Dawn Foley
Denny Jeffries Denny Jeffries

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Some high school students are showing maturity beyond their years thanks to a new sports program.

With the support of the UPS Foundation, some local students with disabilities and some without took part in the inaugural Unified Basketball League, a joint effort between Jefferson County Public Schools and Special Olympics Kentucky.

The students have been forming teams and friendships that go far beyond the court.

Wednesday afternoon Butler and Doss took to the court in the Unified Basketball championship at Valley High School.

Students with intellectual disabilities teamed with other students, who have the most to gain.  "It's life changing for them," said Butler teacher Dawn Foley, "Working with these kids and seeing what they can do and not focusing on what they can't do has really opened a lot of eyes."

Brandon Mudd's eyes were opened.

He said for the first time as a senior he started seeing kids with disabilities and stopped ignoring them. "A couple of them," Brandon said, "In my first couple of years, they would talk to you and try to be friends with you, but I never saw myself being where I am now," he paused, "They're all my friends."

Brandon chose the league as an elective having no idea how it would effect his life thanks to friend's like Jimmy. Jimmy taught Brandon a new respect for others, to laugh more and say what is on his mind. "This is my team," Brandon said, "And I never got to play on a basketball team at Butler, but this is my team."

Butler students are also Unified as cheerleaders and fans. We asked player Denny Jeffries about all the classmates that showed up to cheer for him, "They give us a lot of support and everything."

Denny could barely do an interview with his personal cheering section so excited. His twin sister Courtney had a dream to be prom queen. Butler students made sure that happened.

Eden McDowell said, "We all voted for her and she cried and she was so happy." McDowell continued, "It broke my heart because it was so cute and I just felt so good for her," she said.

"It was great for me to win prom queen," Courtney said.

McDowell added, "I used to take advantage of so many things and knowing what they (students with disabilities) go through now, it's impacted me a whole lot."

UPS Community Relations Director Junyce Porter said of the program, "It is real world education and hopefully this is a program that can be extended throughout all Jefferson County Public Schools."

Butler vs. Doss went to overtime.  This time, the Bears came out on top.

"It was great," Tywann Garrett shouted after the win, "It was like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith all over again!"

Play Unified to Live Unified: Much more than a line on a medal.

Butler teachers said this kind of life lesson is something they just can't teach in the classroom and they are very thankful for it.

They said the program is leading many of the students to pursue college careers in the special needs field.

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