Unified Sports affords special needs athletes an opportunity to play competitive athletics, while giving partners who assist the athletes a chance to take on leadership roles.

Unified Sports also presents unique scenarios for the coaches involved.

Meghan Jacobsen, director of guidance at Foran High, and Foran teacher Rick Raucci are coaches for the Foran Unified Sports basketball team.

They benefit from the program just as much as the participants themselves.

“I get so much out of it. It’s a great way for me to get connected to the students I might not otherwise have,” Jacobsen said.

The partners help athletes pass, shoot, and score during practice drills, as well as games and tournaments against other schools during the winter months.

“I see so much growth out of the athletes and partners,” said Jacobsen, adding that it’s not all about learning and competing. “We have postgame pizza parties and it is a lot of fun.”

Partners are as involved. “They enjoy coming back. They forge great relationships with the athletes,” Jacobsen said. “It’s a nice way of bringing the community together.”

“I just like when they get so excited,” said partner Tiana Albuquerque, a junior who has volunteered in the program all three years of high school. “You get to learn about their experiences and what they’re learning in class.”

“I love seeing the excitement on their faces when they come and play,” said Amanda Grisier, also a third-year partner and junior at Foran High.

Some athletes are in wheelchairs and lower baskets are used. There are a variety of needs among the athletes, and Jacobsen said partners experience working with each of them.

“In our program we have all of the partners and athletes working interchangeably. We’re constantly switching it up so students have an opportunity to work with athletes of all different needs,” Jacobsen said.

Foran’s team includes: Maximos Saxer, Thomas Vergara, Mia Nittoly, Paul Pierelli, Devin DeMarco, Mary O'Connor, Amanda Grisier, Gabrielle Foster, Destiny Abed, Tiana Albuquerque, Kristina Simmons, Emerson Mayville, Ryan Vieira, John Lott, Russell Miller, Chelsea Aliberti, Scott Leiper, Anthony Capua, Amanda Caprio, Tyler Snyder, Jordan Fox, Tiffany Truini, Juan Perez and Kenneth Szygiel.