For the record turnout of 330 students participating in Unified Field Day on May 18, the day couldn’t have been any better. The track was fast, temperatures hovered in the upper 70s under clear blue skies, and the air was squeaky clean — perfect conditions for students from Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) to showcase their skills.
“I’ve never seen a better day for students to be in an event designed just for them,” said Erika Lewandowski, who is in her first year as the special education department chair at Shortridge High School. She led her team in preparing about 50 students for the one-day event.
“I think these students often spend a lot of time in school feeling a little bit different,” she said. “But this is just for them, and I can see how excited they are to be here. My job was simply to be the hype person and that was easy. The kids love it.”
This was the third Unified Field Day in IPS history and the first conducted outdoors at Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI. The event featured IPS students from 16 schools competing in a variety of track events including walking, assisted walking, wheelchair, meter runs, hurdles and relays. The field events included the long jump, ball throws, mini javelin, and soccer. There also was a fun zone and other events in the end zones.
The one-day event is designed to showcase the skills of hundreds of hardworking and dedicated students, said Nathan Vedder, special projects lead for the district’s Unified Student Supports (USS) Department.
“Our goal was to bring together students, parents, staff and community partners to empower our student-athletes to pursue their dreams,” said Vedder, who joined over 35 volunteers at the event. “Our department strives to meet the needs of the whole student. This event empowers students by elevating teachers and community partners through the experiences of Unified Sports, Unified Clubs, and Unified PE.”
The event was conducted in partnership with Special Olympics Indiana’s Unified Champion Schools initiative, showcasing not only the dedication of the students, but also the work of IPS volunteers.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of all the participants and volunteers who made this a major success, ” said Flucas, who noted that every participant walked away with a medal,” said Cortnei Flucas, the district’s USS officer. “I hope that they will look back at that little trinket and think about the time where their needs and their desires were prioritized over everything else,” she said.