Unifying for a cause: Berg’s government class looks to help Unified rebound

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Trevor Owcarz

More stories from Trevor Owcarz

Issue 5
May 19, 2019
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Unifying for a cause: Berg’s government class looks to help Unified rebound

Club Unified on a field day

Club Unified on a field day

Club Unified on a field day

Club Unified on a field day

This past spring, the social studies departments’ government class ran a service learning project and selected to support Project Unified. The program is a club that focuses on the interpersonal relationships between high school students and the special needs students through sports. Mrs. Berg’s fifth period government class ultimately chose to support Unified’s efforts.

Each student had to pick something they’re passionate about and the class would vote on the project they would choose to support. The class voted to support senior Esther Crandell’s preposition about Unified, as they attempt to bring sports back and promote the club to the student body.

Crandell, who plays a prominent role in Unified by representing Downers Grove South at Special Olympics, spoke about the goal of the project for the class.

“Our goal is [to] bring back sports and get more involvement and awareness about Unified throughout our school,” Crandell said.

Crandell has been an advocate for Unified over the past four years, as she has represented Downers Grove South at summits in Peoria and advocacy events throughout the Chicagoland area. She laid out the steps for what the process would look like for their class.

“We gathered information about Unified sports and scheduled meetings with Mr. Wolf, Ms. Brawley and Mrs. Martinez…. And we made a promotional video and survey and had all the social studies teachers either play the video if they could or post [our] survey on their Google Classrooms,” Crandell said.

In addition, the class prepared a meeting that was held in their government classroom so students and staff could come in to attain more information. In order to spread information about the meeting, the class passed out fliers for a meeting that was held this past Wednesday. Students that were interested in the project were added to an email list or could show up to the meeting to get more information.

Students in the class became engaged in the project without having any prior association with Unified before. Senior Nick Dziedzic, who had never partipicated in a Unified event before, discussed what the project meant to him.

“It means a lot to me because it affects the student body of [Downers Grove] South directly. We were able to make an impact directly at South, and to see change happen to something you care about is awesome. The club is growing and they’re in great hands for next year,” Dziedzic said.

Dziedzic also discussed what he learned about Unified throughout the project.

“Throughout the process, I’ve learned a lot about how to implement change in a large body of people. It’s really helped my leadership abilities grow, which is a skill you always want to improve. I’ve had a great time promoting this club and helping it reach its full potential,” Dziedzic said.

Unified, which has grown in the past four years and was certified as a club last fall, got hit with a rough patch this past year. They are in a bit of a rebuild because of the loss of key founding members as well as a lack of gym space that was available to them for their activities.

These two key factors contributed to Unified falling back a bit. They did not compete in their annual basketball tournament during the spring due to the lack of gym space which they used for practice. Additionally, the team usually plays soccer games in the spring as well, and Unified removed those from the schedule this year.

Instead of these individual sports being played, Unified decided to fall back a bit and center around field days. Multiple times throughout the school year, the club would take over the fieldhouse and participate in a variety of activities such as soccer, track, and basketball. However, this would only occur when gym space was available.

While Unified continues to pivot and try to find a new direction, Mrs. Berg’s fifth period seeks to encourage and speed up this process. Berg spoke about the effort the students committed to helping get Unified back on track.

“I’m excited to see where this class brings us through their hard work and effort [and] to the extent of how much we can help Unified in any capacity.”

While Mrs. Berg’s government class continues to put in the effort, the students are encouraged by their progress, and can’t wait to see where it leads the club and them.

“I’ve enjoyed watching my class put together this project [by] becoming more and more pasionnate about Unified…. [we’ve been able to] spread the purpose of Unified,” Crandell said.

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