PEPI makes international ties


Wake Forest was chosen as the only high school in the entire United States to host the international visitors. Their visit lasted one day and included demonstrations of activities for the visitors to take back to their school.

Nick Fekaris and Chad Schmidt, Assistant Editor and Staff Reporter

Their name may be different, but they still make a large impact on our school.

Unified Champions, previously known as Project Unify, recently hosted a group of international visitors. Our special needs program was chosen to be a model for programs all over the world.

To be chosen as the international model gave a sense of pride to those involved in the club.

“I mean, this was really a big honor to be selected because we were the only high school in the entire United States to host this group. I mean, that’s pretty good. They selected one middle school and one high school. We’re making such a difference for these kids. It’s pretty cool,” Gail Tucker, special education coordinator said.

Tucker felt that being chosen as a model for what a special needs program should look like really “shows how much work these kids have done in our group.”

To achieve this success just four years after the clubs creation is quite a feat.

“When we first started, we only had about seven students,” Tucker said. “Now we have 95 students in the club.”

Annie Robbins, Vice-President, hopes to integrate the special needs students with the rest of the school.

“Our goal mainly is to get the kids out of the classroom and have people know who the kids are rather than just say ‘oh we have special needs kids at our school.’ They will say ‘hey, I hung out with Dakota and we did tennis,’ or ‘we hung out with them at the football game.’ We just want to get the kids out of the class, not just keep them stuck down in the basement all the time,” Robbins said.

Tucker feels that this club encompasses more than just special needs students.

“There are a lot of kids in our school who aren’t involved in any kind of school activity, so this club is here to kind of help everybody get more involved. We focus on our special needs students because they need people to help them. We need to make everyone else in school more aware,” Tucker said.

The sense of inclusion for all students is something that the club tried to convey to the visitors from China.

“When they came here and had their day with us, we took them to the gym and showed them their physical abilities and what we do to meet everyone’s needs,” Unified Champions President Mary Helen Garrett said. “Just seeing how everyone was so nice to them and how everyone responded to them, it showed that everyone should get involved.”

Both sides benefited from interacting with peers from another country.

“I learned how different our culture is and how different our schools are, mainly how well our school has really thrived over the years and just how big we’ve gotten with getting the kids out there. Their kids are completely separated from their school,” Robbins said. “They have their own school and it’s a lot harder for them to interact with their kids.”

All around, it was a great experience for those involved.

Garrett said, “Not a lot of clubs get to interact with an international group like we did, so it’s a good experience for them because it’s unique. It got them exposed to a different culture and a different way of doing what we do.”