Students Unify Rowan through Unified Sports

Kaitlee and Joseph sit on a bench together

 The banner recognizing Rowan University as a Special Olympics Champion School. Co-presidents of Unified Sports, seniors Kaitlee Francisco, an elementary education and mathematics major from Washington Township (Gloucester County) and Joseph Egan, a mechanical engineering major from Fairfield (Essex County) contribute to the Rowan and South Jersey communities in ways that go far beyond the classroom. 

On Nov. 3, Kaitlee and Joseph were elated to see their dedication and hard work come to fruition. Unified Sports, which connects Rowan students and Special Olympics athletes to play competitive soccer and basketball together, was recognized by Special Olympics as a Banner Champion School. The honor was featured on ESPN, which visited campus to televise the honor.

Gary Baker, assistant director of Greek Affairs, introduced Unified to Kaitlee and Joe their freshmen year and they have been involved ever since, growing their leadership skills and organizational skills, which they will carry with them into their future careers. 

Kaitlee thanks Unified for teaching her what it means to be inclusive and, “how powerful being kind can be to other people.” She mentions how everyone wants to be included in something and being kind allows that to happen. Kaitlee’s experience with Unified helps her communication skills, which she feels also benefits her now as a member of other organizations on campus, including her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon. 

Joe’s participation in Unified gave him skills transferable to Engineering on Wheels, a K-12 outreach that interests students in engineering. The idea of inclusivity helps Joe ensure no child feels left out.

Joe (left) and Kaitlee (right) sitting on a bench at Rowan's campus.They both agreed that the most challenging aspect of working for Unified is ensuring the end product is something people can appreciate and value. They want to make sure everyone is able to see Unified for what is truly is and influence others to spread inclusivity.

At the end of the season, participants attend a banquet to reflect on their experience and receive awards, as a way to make the one-day-a-week sport into a community of friendship.    

Kaitlee and Joe love seeing the true impact and change Unified has on the Rowan community. Unified enhances Rowan’s culture, allowing anyone to be a part of its community. At Rowan, Kaitlee and Joe enhanced the meaning of living and playing unified.

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Story and photos by:
Alyssa Bauer, junior public relations major

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