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Student Athlete of the Week Veer Gandhakwala

The bigger picture doesn't go unseen by Niwot High School senior Veer Gandhakwala.

In an age where demands on students only seem to be increasing, Gandhakwala has dedicated countless hours of his time toward helping Niwot students with disabilities through the school's unified sports teams. Over the past two years, he has volunteered as a "partner" for unified basketball and bowling, two programs that offer athletic opportunities for special needs students.

As a student-athlete himself in both soccer and track and field, his love for athletics made volunteering for unified sports an easy decision.

"I just wanted to get involved and help out in the community and stay more involved with my peers," Gandhakwala said. "I knew unified basketball was a great way to help out in the community and just with sports, so I wanted to share my passion for sports with kids that needed more help."

Niwot's unified program completed its second season with a pair of games at Skyline High School on Feb. 25. After the final game, Gandhakwala, one of 15 student partners on the Niwot unified basketball team, said he was able to build valuable relationships with the players while teaching them the sport.

"It was super fun," Gandhakwala said. "I started out with unified basketball last year and then I moved into unified bowling because I made a connection with all the athletes."

Again, the big-picture goals of unified sports weren't lost on Gandhakwala.

"You feel so attached to everyone in your grade and school when you're doing it," he said. "It's super cool how they started off not knowing how to shoot a basketball or the rules of basketball, and then they slowly just move into learning how to play and can do it on their own."

Under Gandhakwala's guidance, both of Niwot's unified sports teams had strong seasons. Bowling qualified for the CHSAA state tournament while basketball lost only two games all season.

While unified sports are, of course, ultimately focused on benefiting students with disabilities, unified basketball coach Dawn Zwisler enjoyed watching the partners mature and develop as people.

"Our partners are amazing," Zwisler said. "It's amazing to watch them grow as well as these kids who participate grow."


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