Office of the Superintendent
Welcome to the Superintendent's Office
Anthony J. Panella
Secretary to the Superintendent and District Clerk
A new co-ed basketball team takes to the courts in May at Amherst Central High School with the introduction of a unified basketball team. The unified team provides an opportunity for students with intellectual disabilities to participate in an interscholastic sport with students without disabilities who partner with them on the court.
Players who practice and compete together often develop friendships and we see that happening. Through the team, students who did not typically interact during the day are now practicing together on the courts, having conversations at school, and high-fiving each other in the hallways.
Coached by Jennifer Higgins, wellness teacher at Smallwood Drive Elementary, the sport of basketball is well suited for a unified team because of the teamwork involved. At practices, everyone is focused on learning new skills with plenty of fun and encouragement. There are 15 athletes and partners who will play in all the games as well as another handful of kids who are volunteering their time on a daily basis to help at practices and games. Higgins has a student manager/assistant coach with student Ben Botwin who had Mrs. Higgins as a teacher at Smallwood Drive.
Dr. Kiel Illg, our director of health, physical education and athletics, advocated for this new offering because it provides an inclusive environment for students with intellectual disabilities who don’t typically have a chance to partake in interscholastic athletics.
A Youth Activation committee, advised by special education teacher Mary Baczkiewicz, was started within the high school to advocate for respect, inclusion and acceptance for all people within the building. Members of the youth activation committee support the unified team and strategize, plan and implement activities that create an atmosphere of inclusiveness to partner with the athletes, help fill the bleachers for games, and give high fives in the hallways.
ACHS junior Thomas Olson says he joined the team because he likes basketball. He likes to shoot and it's fun to get to stay after school and hang out with friends.
Higgins, who had coached girls basketball at Amherst for 17 years, considers the unified team a great opportunity to get back into the gym.
Practices started in April and the first home opener is May 7 at 4:15 p.m. against Frontier Central High School. In the month of May, Amherst will compete against teams from Sweet Home, Starpoint, Clarence, Lancaster, Newfane and Frederick Law Olmstead high schools.
Amherst Central High School is proud to become the 26th school in WNY to support a unified basketball team. Mark your calendar and come out to see the Tigers at home games at 5 p.m. on May 10 against Starpoint HS; May 16 against Lancaster HS and May 22 against Frederick Law Olmsted HS. Away games are May 14 at Clarence; and May 20 against Newfane HS.