Unified Sports Program Hosts Football Game vs. Medford

The Unified Sports Program (USP) sponsored by the Special Olympics was started in 2008 by administrator Barbara Scibelli in hopes of unifying all students and providing a normal high school experience for those with special needs. 

This Thanksgiving, Malden High School hosted its first official Unified Sports football game at Fenway against their biggest rival, Medford High, which made the news on Channel 5 which can be seen here.

Charlie Conefrey, Malden’s athletic director who was selected as the District Five Athletic Director of The Year for 2022 in Massachusetts, exclaimed, “It was truly heartwarming to watch how happy our students were talking about their experiences on television. They were not shy which was so great to see. Mr. Mastrangelo set that up with Channel 5 news, so a big thank you to him is warranted!” 

Conefrey also added, “Speaking of the unified football game; Our plans are to make it an annual tradition before our annual Thanksgiving Day football game vs. Medford. We will make it bigger and more efficient next year!” 

Adaptive P.E. students playing basketball. Photo submitted by Charlie Conefrey, Director of Athletics and P.E. Taken prior to the pandemic. Photo taken from the archives.

The USP has been a big part of MHS for a long time now and the faculty have worked hard to improve this program over the years. “When I started seven years ago, one of my main goals was to create more experiences for our P.A.C.E. students. In 2016, for the first time at Malden High School I started a Unified Basketball team in the fall and a Unified Outdoor Track and Field team in the spring. As the years progressed and I learned more about unified sports through the Special Olympics, I strived to create a Nationally Recognized Banner School through the Special Olympics,“ Conefrey explained. 

Witche Exilhomme, current social studies teacher and football coach, as well as Scibelli’s former student leader, explained, “Being a student leader in Malden High back then, it was fun, it was a great experience. I was nervous but I had the right people around me making me feel comfortable in what we were doing. We were shifting the culture to giving back and getting involved in our communities and unified sports was one of the major projects that we started with.” He continued, “We started our unified sports in a way to encourage students to be more welcoming towards special needs students and it took off.” 

The Unified Basketball team before the game. Photo submitted by Charlie Conefrey, photo taken from the archives.

Today, the USP is led by Jillian Robinson, an adaptive PE teacher with a physical education certification to teach students with severe special needs. Robinson decided to make the USP a credit-bearing class, which encouraged more students to join and help support what the program stands for. “Just sitting here and watching it, new kids stepping in, new people leading it. It’s nice to see where it’s heading,” Exilhomme said.

The new staff of the USP are bright workers and will keep coming up with new innovative ideas to grow the program throughout the school and the city of Malden. “The Unified Sports program is my favorite. We are talking about serving a population of students who are generally underrepresented and underserved. I plan to continue to create experiences for our P.A.C.E students,” Conefrey said. 

The Malden High School Special Education Basketball Team. Submitted by Charlie Conefrey, Director of Malden Athletics and P.E. for Malden Public Schools. Taken prior to the pandemic. Photo taken from the archives.

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