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Special Olympics Michigan hosts first-ever Unified Sports Expo in the UP



MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Students worked together on the court for the first-ever Unified Sports Expo in the Upper Peninsula on Tuesday.

Special Olympics Michigan brought together 185 Marquette County students to play different sports in Northern Michigan University’s Physical Education Instructional Facility. Students were paired with peers to play sports like volleyball, cornhole and dance at eight different stations.

Marquette Area Public Schools Student Joy William-Johnson loved making friends.

“It’s fun to hang out with friends, and if you want more time to talk with them and play more sports and dance, you can do that,” William-Johnson said.

Unified Champion Schools Coordinator Jamie Cotter said the event helps students move and socialize.

“The best part is that they’re making friendships, so they’re finding those commonalities between each other and realizing that you may not learn the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends,” Cotter said.

Marquette-Alger RESA employees worked with Special Olympics Michigan to bring peer-to-peer programs like the expo to students. A general education student partners with a special education student-athlete in the games.

“They’re learning about inclusion, acceptance, obviously patience because it takes some time sometimes, and those are all valuable skills that we take with us in life,” Cotter added.

Student Lily Eberhard is a mentor in a peer-to-peer class at Marquette Senior High School. She’s dedicated to being a role model and friend for students.

“As other students get older, that’s really important to know how to build friendships, and today taught that, and it’s really cool to see all the smiles and happy faces today,” Eberhard said.

Cotter hoped to host the expo in the Superior Dome next year.

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