LONG BEACH – The school year is in full swing and so too is the recruitment of Unified Champion Schools through Special Olympics Southern California’s Schools Program.
In partnership with schools and school districts, Special Olympics Southern California utilizes the Unified Champion Schools strategy to activate youth to develop school communities where young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities by utilizing the sports and education programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.
Unified Champion Schools promotes social inclusion by bringing together young people with and without disabilities on sports teams (Special Olympics Unified Sports), together in school or community-wide initiatives (Whole School Engagement), through inclusive student clubs and by fostering youth leadership (Inclusive Youth Leadership). At its core, this Unified strategy is about unifying all students – with and without disabilities – using sports as a catalyst for social inclusion and attitude and behavioral change.
Instead of simply being recipients of programming, students are the architects of lasting change and community building. Adults serve as allies to youth, rather than managers of youth.
Students are encouraged and supported to be agents of change, have opportunities to be leaders, and participate in collaborative school activities. To achieve this, school leaders and educators foster a socially inclusive school climate that emphasizes acceptance, respect and human dignity for all students. A socially inclusive school is a place where no student is excluded because of the degree or type of disability or the services required to meet his/her needs.
Research has shown Unified Champion Schools are making a difference. In a survey through Special Olympics, 97 percent of high school seniors say that Unified Champion Schools activities are changing their schools for the better. The staff at those schools, 86 percent in fact, report that they felt the program has made a big impact in reducing bullying and teasing in their schools. For more research on the program CLICK HERE.
WHAT’S A UNIFIED CHAMPION SCHOOL?
- Sports for All: Special Olympics Unified Sports brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to train and compete on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Playing unified can be as easy as picking up a ball and inviting someone not quite like you to play. Here are some of the programs:
Young Athletes (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/youngathletes)
Unified Juniors (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/unifiedjr)
SO Colleges (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/socolleges)
Unified Leagues (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/unifiedleagues)
Unified CIF (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/unifiedcif)
Unified PE Classes
Unified Sports Clinics
Unified Exhibition or Field Day (LINK: https://sosc.org/schools/schoolgames)
- Leadership for All: Students with and without intellectual disabilities working together to lead and plan advocacy, awareness, and other Special Olympics related inclusive activities throughout the school year.
- Welcoming for All: Awareness and education activities that promote inclusion and reach the majority of the school population.
- Resources to Make it Happen: CLICK HERE to find resources for Unified Champion Schools for students, educators, and programs.
In 2016-17, SOSC welcomed 40 Unified Champion Schools to the movement. CLICK HERE to see who joined the movement.