Congrats on a job well done!
Immokalee High School special education teacher and coach, Kelly Stevenson-Crews receives Special Olympics North America coach of the year award. “Well first I didn’t even know I was nominated, so when they announced it I was in total shock. I had no idea, it was the most wonderful feeling. I just couldn’t believe it, it was right before we were going to play the championship game, so everybody is really focused on that game, and when they announced that, and I don’t know, everything didn’t connect at first but then afterwards everything settled in and I was so excited.” Kelly Stevenson-Crews has been teaching at Immokalee High School for 21 years and has been working with special education for over 30. After spending nine years at Middletown High School in Ohio, Stevenson-Crews began working in Collier County and after 18 years decided to relocate to Ave Maria to be closer to her workplace and students. “I just continue to do it because it brings me so much happiness every day and fun and I can’t imagine doing anything or teaching anything else.” Project UNIFY
When asked for a summary of what Project UNIFY is Stevenson-Crews response was “Project UNIFY is students with and without disabilities playing together on the same team. So, they compete together on and off the field. So, within the school, they participate not only in special Olympic sports, but they are also participating in clubs. They give back to the community like being part of Relay For Life and some after-school programs like igrow which is a gardening program and that all stems from the movement of inclusion with students with or without disabilities.” Working alongside Stevenson-Crews is coach Davarius Johnson. Johnson’s brother was a former student of Stevenson-Crews which is how he got involved with Special Olympics and project UNIFY. “Project UNIFY means this is a family, we’re one, we’re a family. We get along with each other, we teach each other, whether it’s an athlete teaching a coach or a coach teaching an athlete, we try to learn from each other,” Johnson said Both Stevenson-Crews and Johnson agree and go into detail about how project UNIFY has had a positive influence on the students. “I think it affects them in many different ways. Meaning it gives them a chance to not be on the streets, they get to have something to do, they get to get away from all the things that’s happening around the world and the city, the county, I think it’s a beautiful thing.” Johnson “It’s been a major positive change in their lives, they’re part of the school community now, they’re recognized at pep rallies, they receive varsity athletic awards as if they’re playing a varsity sport, and since FHSAA has sanctioned basketball and track and field they’re actually playing at the state tournaments where they would if they were a varsity sport. The dynamics have changed. The school and community really embrace the students. They’re recognized in the hallways, they developed numerous friendships because now they have friends who are in general ed as well as in their classes, so it’s been a win-win situation.” Stevenson-Crews Marisol Garcia, a junior at Immokalee High School participates in project UNIFY and opened up about her experience with Project UNIFY and the coaches. “My favorite thing about Mrs. Stevenson is that she involves everyone with us. She introduces us to new kids and she’ll have us introduced to new sports. This year she helped me with tennis. She introduced me to it, cause I’ve never done it. She helps us make more of who we are, if we need anything she’ll be there for us. She’s very supportive with anything we do. Coach Davarius keeps encouraging the kids no matter if they do bad, no matter if they’re down, if they need help he’s there for them, he encourages them, he tells them right from wrong. He guides them into a direction where he knows they’re going to do good for themselves.” Project UNIFY offers several sports, from basketball, track and field and tennis but Marisol’s favorite sport to participate in is bowling. “My favorite sport with UNIFY has to be bowling because it gave me a chance to retry that again and my partner Erica is really good with me and I’m happy I got to be with her.” The FHSAA basketball season ended with Immokalee winning against Golden Gate 46-37. The season may have ended but you can still catch the team practicing and getting prepared for an upcoming tournament in Gainesville.