LONG BEACH (May 11, 2017) – The word champion is defined as “a person who fights for a cause” or “to support the cause of; defend.” A primary initiative for Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) is the Schools Program, and 28 Southern California schools have risen to earn the label of Unified Champion Schools.
With sports as the foundation, the Special Olympics Southern California Unified Champion Schools program has three components: Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement. These three factors are essential for schools to promote positive attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities and promote social inclusion.
As of May 10th, 28 Southern California schools have exemplified those components and have been named SOSC Unified Champion Schools. Congratulations and special thank you to:
Animo Phillis Wheatley Charter Middle School
Animo Western Charter Middle School
Brea Olinda High School
Cesar Chavez Learning Academies
Columbus Middle School
Corona del Mar High School
Crescenta Valley High School
Fillmore High School
Fountain Valley High School
Hoover High School
Kennedy High School
La Crescenta Elementary School
Haddon Avenue Steam Academy
Marina Del Rey Middle School
Mayfair High School
Miraleste Intermediate School
North Torrance High School
Palisades Charter High School
Palos Verdes Peninsula High School
Polytechnic High School
Rosemont Middle School
Trabuco Hills High School
Westminster High School
These 28 schools are part of the Schools Program that offers a combination of activities that equip young people with tools and training that promotes social inclusion. To be a UCS, they committed to the following:
- Unified Sports – Providing inclusive sports training and competition opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to showcase their athletic abilities alongside their general education peers, as teammates.
- Inclusive Youth Leadership – Students with and without intellectual disabilities working together to lead and plan advocacy, awareness, and other Special Olympics and related activities throughout the school year.
- Whole School Engagement – Awareness and education activities that promote inclusion and reach the majority of the school population.
Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement activities allow students with and without intellectual disabilities to interact in a variety of ways. With all three components of the Unified Champion Schools program, it creates the maximum amount of opportunity for positive attitudes to be created among students and reinforced by the schools.
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is the comprehensive model of the Unified Schools strategy that is in the United States. This program could be implemented in any inclusive school system, or in areas that require youth with disabilities to attend school. This model could also be used in places where special education schools are the norm, but also be paired with a mainstream/regular education school for Unified Sports and other awareness and leadership activities.
The goal of Unified Champion Schools is to create school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in all activities, opportunities and functions. These 28 Unified Champion Schools have done just that.