Mission Viejo High School and Robinson Elementary School to receive national recognition from Special Olympics for achievements with inclusion

Special Olympics Southern California has announced that Mission Viejo High School and Robinson Elementary School, two Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, are receiving national banner recognition for their efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities.

Mission Viejo High School and Robinson Elementary School, both from Saddleback Valley Unified School District, are receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect.

Mission Viejo High School and Robinson Elementary School will be amongst a select number of schools to receive this distinction. They will be presented with a banner to hang in their school and be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status.

Mission High School has always been a leader in sports.  Not only do they play hard, but they play Unified!  The Diablos typify whole school engagement and seamlessly incorporate Unified culture in their day-to-day activities.  In spite of recent Covid-19 challenges, Mission has remained committed to continued opportunities for all students to play and learn Unified.
– Diane Clark, Ed.D., Director, Special Education

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a strategy for schools Pre-K through university that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments, utilizing three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement.

More than 200 schools in Southern California currently utilize the strategies of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools , joining nearly 8,000 other schools across the country. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research, to be an effective and replicable means to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate*. Key data points include:

  • 96% of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.
  • 96% of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
  • 92% credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing, and offensive language.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.

The primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports® (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. National banner schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

*Evaluation conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Hasbro-Supported Special Olympics National Banner Unified Champion Schools of 2021 – 2022

Special Olympics is lucky to have partners and sponsors that support work like the National Recognition Program and other offerings throughout the organization. One of these meaningful partnerships is with Hasbro. Hasbro, a global play and entertainment company, has partnered with Special Olympics since 2016 to promote inclusion in schools across the world. Hasbro directly supports the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools in the United States by honoring a few national banner schools each year with special celebrations.

During the 2021 – 2022 school year, Hasbro and Unified Champion Schools will support special celebration for Robinson Elementary School!

This unique period of history has been challenging for all us to feel connected.  Unified activities at Robinson provide our students with and without disabilities the catalyst and opportunity to stay connected and engaged. The Robinson Rattlers demonstrate that the power of Unified is unstoppable; learning and playing together makes us stronger.
– Diane Clark, Ed.D., Director, Special Education

Read more about the partnership here.

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