Celebrating Pleasant View Elementary School

Celebrating Pleasant View Elementary School

This is brave.

This is proof.

This is who I’m meant to be.

This is me.

  • The Greatest Showman

The air buzzed with excitement January 31, 2024, at Pleasant View Elementary, as students, staff, and special guests prepared to celebrate the school’s Special Olympics National Banner renewal. Back in 2020, when Pleasant View was still McCabe, it was the first elementary school in Rhode Island to receive a banner. Since then, two schools have merged to become what they are today, with double the number of students enrolled. With the merger came change, and the members of the Unified Committee found themselves needing to reconstruct their program. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and time to renew the banner, and it’s well earned. I was able to chat with Alicia Marques-Jordan, long time PE/APE teacher at Pleasant View Elementary, as well as the Special Olympics Unified Coordinator since 2016. She let me in on how the renewal marks a beginning of a new era for the students, school, and Unified Program.

So, what exactly does it mean that Pleasant View Elementary had their banner renewed? The honor speaks on behalf of all the hard work the school does to make sure every student feel included no matter their ability.

Alicia elaborated, “above all things, we value teaching and exemplifying inclusion, empathy, and kindness.” They look at this renewal as a brand-new banner because this is the first time the school has received it under its new name, and so much has gone into the new program. The road to the current Unified Program wasn’t an easy one. A full reconstruction was in order, as one of the two schools had no Unified Program prior to the merger. They had to start at square one so each student understood what it meant to be a Unified Champion School. They also had to adapt to doubling the number of students, so a Fifth Grade Unified Committee was formed at that time. Alicia explained that for any school to be considered for this distinction, the first step is completing a lengthy application. Each participant must provide evidence of how their school excels at 10 standards of excellence, which the Special Olympics put forth. From there, the application is reviewed by a board where they approve or deny the banner status. Pleasant View Elementary passed with flying colors!

Alicia loves working with the students and being such a huge part of their lives. Her favorite part of the job is teaching Adapted Physical Education and Unified. She loves watching her students “discover that what they once thought made them different and set them apart in a negative way, is actually a superpower.” She teaches her students Physical Education and how to advocate for themselves and be proud of who they are. The program adapted the song, “This is Me,” from The Greatest Showman as their anthem, as the movie itself follows a group of people who “find their voice and their strength while working together.”

Alicia hopes that the program continues to grow stronger and stronger. She says, “We add new components to it each year to keep it fresh and pertinent to things that change in the world of disability.” For example, they decided to change the puzzle piece symbol, which once represented Autism Acceptance, to the infinity sign. Which is now a more widely accepted and inclusive symbol. A few former McCabe unified leadership committee members joined together to establish a nonprofit called the Ability Bridge, which connects students with disabilities with peers.

Finally, Alicia wanted to extend a special thank you. She said:

“I’d like to thank the students, staff, and families at Pleasant View for continuing to teach the importance of inclusion, kindness, and empathy. For this to work the way it is supposed to, this needs to be taught in everything we do, and I believe that the staff does that. Special thanks to Tim Tedeschi, my co-host for the ceremony this year. He was my very first Adapted Physical Education student 20 years ago. He forever changed the way I taught students with disabilities. He comes to the school a few times a week to volunteer his time and help educate our students about the importance of inclusion. Our Unified program began with him.” She also wanted to thank special guests who attended the event, from the State of Rhode Island, Smithfield Town Council, Smithfield School Committee, Smithfield Fire and Police Department, Channel 10, Special Olympic personal, members of the SSELAC, Pleasant View PTO, Smithfield Staff and Students, and to everyone else who showed up to support the school and the day special. Finally, a thank you to Woody Harrelson for taking the time to record a message for the students.

The banner renewal is such a great honor to showcase all the hard work and dedication put into the program, and it is well deserved by everyone at Pleasant View Elementary School. Congratulations, Keep up the great work!

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