Energy rolls in around Unified Bocce at NPHS


Knight Crier

NPHS students Chris LaRosa and Manu Mittal compete during a Bocce meet at NPHS on Friday, February 4th, 2022.

TOWAMENCIN – Walking into the Navy gym Friday afternoon, one would have gotten a glimpse of North Penn colors splattered in the bleachers, heard excited chattering over the blaring warm-up music, and witnessed memories being made. That is what the Unified Bocce experience is all about.

Being so much more than just an after-school activity, the Unified Bocce team proves to make a difference in the lives of every Knight involved. At North Penn High School, every student, regardless of their differences, continues to inspire one another on a daily basis. The Unified Bocce team goes above and beyond that precedent. Students from every grade at the high school have come together to make the after-school experience unforgettable for the athletes and their partners. 

Senior Kayla Pugliese and Juniors Nick Lupinacci and Julia Kile have seen first hand the impact this activity has had on the students involved.

“Every practice the kids come and love playing bocce after school… everyone has fun with it,” Lupinacci explained.

“It’s a friendly place, it’s open, anybody can come, and it’s a great experience. I really recommend coming out,” Pugliese added.

As a one of a kind bocce team, the significance of this event goes much deeper than what is seen on the surface. Not only is bocce giving students an opportunity to have fun after school, but it is allowing athletes to open up and really get comfortable with their peers. People are constantly working hard to give these athletes memories to last a lifetime. 

“After every practice, we got to know the students more and more. We’ve created really great bonds with them,” Lupinacci said.

“I’ve seen a lot of students come out of their shells. I’ve become friends with a lot of different people. They really enjoy working hard every practice and becoming better athletes at this game,” Kile elaborated.

The goal of this activity is not only to win, but to allow some students the opportunity to do something they have never done before; be a part of a team. Bocce athletes Mark Heath and Erin Chi always make the most of their time with their teammates, and everyone involved does a phenomenal job of making it a welcoming experience for the athletes.

“It’s great to play with my friends…I feel glad that I made friends with my partner, Dylan [Brown],” Heath said. ”

North Penn’s Erin Chi takes a turn in Friday’s bocce match at NPHS. (Knight Crier )

“Being with everyone is really fun and being part of the family…It’s just great. I feel like we’re included and it’s a really great team,” Chi added.

For those who have decided to help out, it is nothing short of an impactful experience. Students are making the most of spending time with their partners, all while volunteering for the greater good and gaining the big idea behind it all.

“I got involved because I wanted to meet new people and I wanted to interact with people I don’t see everyday. I wanted to be exposed to new experiences and new people,” Kile explained.

“At first I was a bit hesitant about joining because I didn’t know how to handle everybody or how to play bocce, but now I’m here and I love it so much. I’ve made so many new friends and actually know how to play bocce now,” Pugliese described. “It’s just been an awesome experience and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Mrs. Susan Ahart is the coach for this charismatic team. She recognizes the goal of bringing kids with disabilities and kids without together, to ultimately engage in a mutual activity as one. 

“I want to give all the students involved opportunities to make new friendships, and to give students with disabilities a safe, structured way to interact with other kids,” Ahart explained.

Not only does this event reflect positively on those involved, but it shines a light on the values that the North Penn community takes so much pride in.

“Every ounce of this is very much “North Penn,” where we come together as a group in any obstacle we face. In bocce we’re coming together as a team regardless of disability status… It’s a fun activity for all of us to be involved,” Ahart described.

In the long run, being a part of this bocce team will lead to lasting friendships, and loads of memories for both parties to take with them through life.

“You make so many personal connections here, and just seeing [the athletes] do as well as they do, just brings a smile to my face,” Pugliese concluded.