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The Inaugural A-Team Basketball Game at RHS-ECS

by RHS-ECS students Analiese Batista and Jasmine Pugh, Special Correspondents for MetroSports Magazine, May 2024

Autism Awareness month at Yonkers’ Roosevelt High School – Early College Studies reached new heights on Tuesday April 29th; the  A-Team at Roosevelt High School had their first game against the Ossining High School Pride. It was a highly anticipated match, as it was not only the A-Team's first game of the season but also their first win. The excitement, energy, and support in the gym was clear as both teams took to the court.

Special Olympics Unified Sports gives students with special needs the chance to play sports with their peers. While the program only includes basketball right now, it will be expanded into other sports in the future.  This is a pilot program for Unified Sports in Yonkers schools, and it is planned to include the other high schools and younger students in elementary and middle school.  

The A-Team showed incredible determination and skill throughout the game. It was truly inspiring to watch these athletes who face unique challenges every day, come together as a team and compete with such passion and heart. The atmosphere at the game was electric, with supporters from both teams filling the stands with excitement and anticipation. The backbone to a project like this is having an amazing support system, and having a group of individuals who are passionate and want to help make a change.

The driving force behind bringing this together is Coach Nick, he has been working in special education his whole life.  He was aware that the students didn’t have the same opportunities as their peers even though they have the ability and love for the sport of basketball. Working as a steppingstone for all other high schools in Yonkers to have this program. However, he cannot pull this off all alone, with help from the staff at Roosevelt, the coaching team, teachers, and volunteers they all play an important part.

Teachers like Christine Morra was one of the first people to help bring the Roosevelt team and the Special Olympics together. Morra states that “my mission for spearheading this program at RHS was because of the A-Team students. They are all talented and amazing students. A few of my students share a passion for basketball and wanted so much to have a high school team/program to be a part of. I reached out to Special Olympics (NY) to see how they could help us make this happen for the students. It took 2 years for this program to come to the Yonkers Public Schools.  We are all so excited for the opportunity and honored to be a part of the A-Team.  My mission was to make my students dream come true and with everyone's help yesterday, I think we did.”  

One of the Team’s stars was Robert Freckleton (#11, below with family) who is exiting out of Roosevelt's A-Team this year.  He has been with the A-Team for 8 years.  Robert is friendly and charismatic.  He loves working the coffee cart, recycling, helping his teachers, and of course basketball.  He is responsible and has been a great asset to our program. 

The Special Olympics A-Team at Roosevelt High School is an example of the power of sports to bring people together and break down barriers. These kids may face challenges that others do not, on the court, they are united in their love of the game and their desire to succeed. Watching the A-Team play against the Ossining team was a special experience. Giving them a platform to showcase their talents was a reminder of the incredible strength and resilience of committed athletes. The Roosevelt community is so proud of the A-Team and cannot wait to see what they accomplish in the rest of their season.

MetroSports Magazine would like to acknowledge the support of Special Education teachers Christine Morra and Marissa DeGaetano, Assistant Principal Dr. Matel Hassan and Principal Ed DeChent for helping to make this program a reality.


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