Anthony Zastrow is a senior at Penfield High School. On Monday morning, though, he was hustling up and down a basketball court in the new Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College.
Zastrow was playing on an inclusive basketball team made up of high schoolers with and without disabilities. Still catching his breath after subbing out in the first quarter of his first game at the training center, Zastrow described his team.
“This basketball is different than any other basketball. It’s crazy, because, like, listen, you’ve got kids with all kinds of disabilities. You’ve got boys, girls. It’s amazing,” he said. “No other basketball is like it. That’s why it’s so unique, and it’s awesome. I love it. I love it so much.”
The college said the center where Zastrow was playing will bring together athletes with disabilities and students who are studying in disciplines like nursing, social work, and occupational and physical therapy.
Special Olympics chair Tim Shriver said the diversity on Zastrow’s team is important – and it’s a sign of change.
“We’re seeing human beings who, just a short time ago, would have been locked away and hidden,” Shriver said. Now, they’re “on the middle of the court, celebrating their gifts. And that’s a big transformation.”
Tom Golisano, the local philanthropist whose foundation contributed about a third of the funding for the $23.8 million facility, said his aim was to create a model for inclusion in athletics at Nazareth.
“I hope they become an example for other colleges and universities around the country,” Golisano said. “The idea of inclusion is growing rapidly in this country, as it should be.”
Nazareth board of trustees chair Tim Fournier said people with intellectual disabilities are often underserved in sports and in society in general.
“We wanted to change that story,” he said.
This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.