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Judson High School wins State Championship

On March 6, 2023, the Judson Rockets Unified Special Olympics Team beat Huntsville, 33-24, to win their first State Championship!

Needless to say, this team is extraordinary.

Sanctioned by UIL, Unified Champion Schools is a unique Special Olympics program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to “promote inclusion and acceptance among students with and without intellectual disabilities.” Schools that have a 2022-2023 Partnership for Inclusion with Special Olympics Texas have the opportunity to compete in Unified Sports & Activities, including robotics, basketball, and track and field.

Now in its second year being a unified school, Judson High School is showing that it's a Champion School that “empowers young students to develop school environments where acceptance and inclusion between students with and without intellectual disabilities foster respect, dignity, and unity by utilizing the programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.”

And this past week, in basketball, the unified basketball team won a state championship.

“It's exciting,” said Head Coach Amy Paul, who is the district’s head of delegation for Special Olympics and an adaptive physical education teacher. “To lead a group of kids of diverse backgrounds and athletic talent to come together, especially after last year, to be able to face the same team that we played in the championship this year [and win]. that is awesome. I'm proud of our kids and our staff.”

The team is made up of an inclusive group of students on campus, including football standout senior Gavin Harris, who shared his appreciation for the entire experience on his Twitter account.

“I’m beyond blessed I had the opportunity to play with the Unified Judson basketball team,” Harris said. “These wins won’t mean anything in a couple of years, but these memories will last a lifetime. Your Judson Rockets are State Champions!”

The entire journey of winning a state championship is overwhelming, but this team is special because of what it stands for - inclusion and diversity in all aspects of education, including athletics.  And Harris was clear to note that at the end of the day, we all have more in common than separates us.

“I'm a big believer that God is going to provide you with blessings and miracles. And this is one of those uncommon blessings that he just presented in front of me,” Harris said. “I believe everybody's the same. We're all people at the end of the day. We all make mistakes. We'll all have problems. So when I got the opportunity, [I jumped on it]. These memories and relationships are going to last a lifetime.”

Sophomore Carlos Suarez pushed himself to the limits to win his state title. But he constantly brought it back that it was a team effort that got him there.

“I just wanted to come into the game already prepared for anything,” Suarez said. “I played my hardest. It just felt good winning with the team.”

Now that her success with basketball is evident, Paul wants to grow inclusive athletics to other sports, other schools, and across the entire district. Later this year, she plans to put a unified track team together, as well as spread unified sports to other campuses within the district.

“My goal has been to spread being inclusive so people with and without disabilities work together, whether it's in the classroom, saying hello to each other in the hallways, in the cafeteria, developing clubs together, or playing on athletic teams,” Paul said. “My goal is to have that in the entire district.”

With the addition of track and field, Judson High School will eventually become a National Recognized Banner School, recognized across the country for its inclusiveness and diversity in all aspects of academics and athletics.

“I think this is just a start,” Paul said. “[I want other] kids to see what they can get involved in. [It begins with treating] each other with love and kindness. “Like Gavin said, everybody is made the same. We are different in just our own little ways. But we're all capable of doing so much more.”

A big congratulations to the Judson High School Unified Basketball Team for bringing back another state championship to Judson ISD!

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