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Senior Kevin Pettis recently became the first member of the Unified Sports program at East Haven High school to receive Scholar-Athlete honors from the Southern Connecticut Conference. (Photo by PJ Foti/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Everybody has a friend at East Haven High School, and his name is Kevin Pettis. Kevin, a senior, can routinely be seen giving out hugs and high-fives to his classmates, while making sure that everyone is having a good day.
Kevin, who has autism, has been a member of the East Haven Unified Sports program since his freshman year at the high school. Participating in Unified Sports provides a great way for Kevin to get out and play with his friends.
“Unified Sports is great. We do lots of great sports, such as bowling, basketball, volleyball, and sometimes soccer. I love it,” Kevin says. “It really gives me the athletic experience. I like having fun. It makes Unified Sports so special.”
Kevin recently received a major accolade when he was presented with Scholar-Athlete honors on behalf of the Southern Connecticut Conference. Kevin is the first member of East Haven’s Unified Sports program to receive that award. When he heard the news, Kevin threw his hands in the air in jubilation.
“It really means the world to me,” says Kevin, whose favorite subject is math. “There is no other award like this. I’m really proud of myself.”
Yellowjackets’ girls’ soccer Head Coach Jake Hackett is also co-head coach of Unified Sports at East Haven. It means a lot to Hackett that there are 12 athletes and six helpers involved in the program. Hackett feels beyond happy for Kevin that he earned his Scholar-Athlete distinction.
“In our 25 years, this is the first time a Unified athlete has received the award, and we’re extremely proud of that,” says Hackett, who coaches Unified Sports with Chris Bugyi. “There’s no Unified athlete that I believe deserves this more than Kevin. He’s the face of what Unified Sports is supposed to be here at East Haven.”
Kevin was a little apprehensive when he first started participating in Unified Sports as a freshman, but he’s enjoyed the experience more and more with each passing year. Now, Kevin is trying to get other students involved in the program.
“When I started Unified Sports, I was nervous at the time, but when I grew up, things got better,” Kevin says. “Everything is possible, and I want to send a message to everyone who is doing good things to keep trying until you get it just right. Never give up what you’re trying to do.”
Hackett says that Kevin’s positive personality is always on display in both the Unified Sports program and the hallways of the high school. If there’s one thing Kevin loves, it’s putting smiles on the faces of his fellow Yellowjackets.
“He’s the most kind and caring kid that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He walks in here every morning and says hi to pretty much every student. All the students in the building know who Kevin is. He’s like a celebrity,” says Hackett. “No matter what, Kevin is always filled with energy and encouraging his teammates.”
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