Alexander County High School chooses to include
Imagine walking into your first day of high school: the excitement of
taking the next step in your journey, the fear of the unknown, the anxiety
of wondering if you will fit in. Now, imagine stepping into the doors of
a school knowing you are different than the rest of your classmates or
wondering if you will get bullied. For Zachary Boston, these thoughts
filled his mind on his first day at Alexander Central High School.
After a ten-year career with Special Olympics Alexander County,
Boston has made great friends and has become a seasoned athlete. Yet,
taking that first step into high school was like taking a giant step out
of his comfort zone.
“You just don’t know sometimes. I was so worried that Zachary would
get bullied for being different,” Zachary’s mom, Heather, shared. “When I
was in school, kids like him got bullied. I didn’t want that for him.”
Despite the fears the Boston family had, when Boston returned
home after his first day, they knew Alexander Central High School
would be different.
“I have lots of friends at school,” Boston says.
“I have never seen a group of high schoolers rally around a student
with a disability,” says his mother. “I couldn’t have put Zachary in a more
Boston and his mother say that his best friend, Jaycie Knight, helped
ease him into his high school experience.
“She is definitely his best friend,” says Boston’s mother. “He
loves his Jaycie!”
The pair immediately hit it off and found that they had a lot in common.
Like Boston, Knight loves to swim. She competes on Alexander County
High School’s swim team. After learning that Boston also
competed in swimming for Special Olympics Alexander
County, Knight and her mother, Charman, a teaching
assistant in Boston’s classes and the assistant swim coach,
asked Boston to join her on the school’s swim team.
“About a year ago, Ms. Charman and Jaycie approached
me to ask if Zachary could try out for the high school
swim team,” says Boston’s mother. “I really trusted them
and knew they would keep an eye on him while he was at
practice so I let him. Since then, he has grown so much!”
A year later, Boston continues to swim for his
team – competing in the 50-meter men’s division.
Boston even achieved a new personal record in a
December 2017 meet.
“The team really embraced him when he joined,”
states his mother. “But more than that, the whole
school has united around him. The students at ACHS
are his biggest fans. They come to all of the meets and
cheer so loudly when Zachary is swimming. It has been
amazing to see!”
Boston, a normally shy student, has not only grown as
an athlete, but as an individual, too.
“We go to the grocery store anywhere in the county and ten
people know him and Zachary has to shake each of their hands,”
But even more than that, Boston has gained confidence that extends
beyond the pool.
“Zach is seen as a leader around the school. Students watch him take
initiative to assist others when needed,” Special Olympics Alexander
County Local Program Coordinator, Amy Pruett explains.
Thanks to Alexander Central High School, a Unified Champion
School, Boston has a place to call home.
“We are blessed to have a supportive and accepting student population.
Our students are respected and are involved in every aspect of school
functions, from pep rallies to proms to graduations,” Pruett exclaims.
When you walk through the hallways of Alexander Central High
School, you see a welcoming environment where students and educators
alike are beginning to understand the value of inclusion. Students are
embracing their differences and are learning what it means to live
and play Unified.
“I wish every school could be just like my school one day,” says
Boston. “We all deserve that kind of school.”
As schools across the United States and the world join the Special
Olympics movement, Boston’s hopes may come true. Students and
educators continue to come together to build a future where no
student fears walking into their first day of school and is embraced by a
climate of inclusion, acceptance and respect.