Unified Champion Schools: Fostering Youth Leaders

LONG BEACH – Through Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, Special Olympics Southern California creates partnerships with schools and districts to help foster positive school climates for individuals with intellectual disabilities. During the 2017-18 school year, partnerships included 22 elementary schools, 20 middle schools, 50 high schools, three school districts and three universities.

The goal of Unified Champion Schools is to promote the acceptance and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities into the fabric of a school’s community at-large, encouraging participation and leadership by students with intellectual disabilities through activities centered around sports and inclusive youth leadership development, as well as whole school engagement activities that help raise awareness of Special Olympics. For a complete list of our Unified Champion Schools, click here.

“The next generation is who we need to carry Special Olympics and its movement forward, and to greater heights, and that’s why Unified Champion Schools are so important,” said Bill Shumard, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California.

The R-Word Campaign is an easy and popular activity of choice among Unified Champion Schools. Each year around the country, students take the pledge to “spread the word to end the word” and eliminate the use of the word retard in an effort to create more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

The involvement has already paid dividends for a number of schools, and three were represented at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle earlier this summer. Two Trabuco Hills High School students took part in Youth Leadership Experience activities, while a pair of Unified teams from Lompoc High School (basketball) and Southwest High School (soccer) took part in competitions – bringing together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities – and both earned bronze medals.

It marked the first time SOSC has sent Unified teams to USA Games since its inception in 2006.

To learn more about Unified Champion Schools, please visit our website.

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