Special Olympics North America announced on August 19 that Neenah High School and Shattuck Middle School in Neenah were selected as nationally recognized National Banner Unified Champion Schools.
The two programs were among just 155 schools in the country recognized for their commitment to inclusion and the Unified Champion Schools program. In order to earn recognition as a Banner School, a Unified Champion School must meet 10 standards of excellence developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
Both Neenah High School and Shattuck Middle School have gone above and beyond for years now in their dedication to their students and commitment to inclusion.
“It’s really almost unprecedented that two schools in the same district get this award so that really speaks to the great job these two do.” – Jody LaPlante, athletic director for the Fox Valley region
Chad Oeftger has led the Neenah High School UCS program since 2014 while his wife, Jenni, has led the Shattuck Middle School program since 2017. The two have become a true powerhouse couple working tirelessly to promote inclusion and acceptance in their community.
“It’s really almost unprecedented that two schools in the same district get this award so that really speaks to the great job these two do,” said Jody LaPlante, athletic director for the Fox Valley region. “We’re very proud of them and thankful they’re in their jobs where they are helping out so many of our athletes.”
Among his many accomplishments, Chad Oeftger has helped spearhead Unified Sports at Neenah High School. He is one of the most enthusiastic Unified Sports proponents in Wisconsin and his Unified teams consistently participate in events like the Unified Relays at Summer Games or Unified Basketball at the Indoor Sports Tournament. He also helped coach Team Wisconsin’s basketball squad to a silver medal at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle. Despite all of his successes, one of his defining characteristics is his humility.
“The fact that we will see inclusive efforts at a young age all the way to adulthood and follow our students and families along the journey is amazing.” – Jenni Oeftger
“I think this is so amazing for Neenah High School and Shattuck Middle School because it is a reflection of all the support everyone in Neenah has given our Unified program and Neenah Schools Special Olympics,” Chad Oeftger said. “We would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for administrators, teachers, and students working together to make Neenah inclusive.”
Jenni Oeftger has brought that same level of enthusiasm, humility and commitment to inclusion to Shattuck Middle School. She also helps run the area’s Young Athletes events, despite not typically working with that age group.
“For Shattuck and Neenah High School to be recognized as National Banner Schools is such an honor for the Neenah Joint School District. There are so many different facets of our programming that have helped include so many students with and without disabilities to allow their strengths to shine through,” Jenni Oeftger said. “The fact that we will see inclusive efforts at a young age all the way to adulthood and follow our students and families along the journey is amazing.”
That extra effort to help see inclusion through from young childhood to adulthood is not lost on Jenna Lang, the Young Athlete Manager. “Last year it was just UW-Madison and to get two schools in the same year is a huge deal,” Lang said. “They’re doing an awesome job and we can’t thank them enough for what they do. Hopefully this a great way for them to start their school year.”
The Special Olympics Wisconsin community is proud of Chad and Jenni’s accomplishments and grateful to have them leading the charge in the Unified Champion Schools program.