In his sophomore year at Mechanicville High School, Joe Pignatelli made a decision that changed his life.
He joined his school’s Unified Sports Basketball Team, a Special Olympics program that combines special education and non-special education students.
Now a high school senior, Joe has transformed from an angry, negative, lonely invisible guy to an enthusiastic, self-confident guy with friends having a positive high school experience. He credits the Unified Sports team experience will helping him change. “The Unified Sports team promotes acceptance,” explained Joe. He had gone from sitting on the sidelines in gym class to starting for Mechanicville’s Red Raider Unified Basketball team.
The 18-year-old is in his second year of the Career and Tech Ed’s Culinary Arts & Hospitality program at the F. Donald Myers Education Center. His Chef instructor Paul Cerone has noticed the change, too. “He’s much more confident,” said Chef Cerone.
Joe has used that newfound confidence to become a national spokesman for the Unified Sports program. He has traveled to Washington, D.C. where he talked to congressmen and senators about funding for Special Olympics in New York and Unified Sports. He went to Arizona to hear about different strategies for Unified Sports and will be a guest speaker at an upcoming symposium in Montreal.
Joe plans to continue his education by studying human services at Hudson Valley Community College where he’ll pursue a degree in psychology. He said he’s also like to pursue a job with the Special Olympics.
Below is a video that Joe produced about his experience.
Click here to read the article in The Saratogian.