Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools logo

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a strategy for schools Pre-K through university that intentionally promotes social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities through sport and education-related activities. The three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with the knowledge, skills, tools and training to create classrooms and school climates of acceptance, respect, and meaningful inclusion. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in — and feel a part of — all activities, opportunities, and functions.

This is accomplished by implementing Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership opportunities (such as clubs, student organizations and leadership teams), and whole school engagement. Unified Champion Schools implementation can vary greatly from school to school, based on the needs, goals, schedules, and other factors unique to each school, but the building blocks and framework are the same.

The program is woven into the fabric of the school community, enhancing existing efforts and providing rich opportunities that empower all students to be the agents of genuine change in their schools, creating socially inclusive environments that support and engage all learners.

Evidence and data collected through research and annual evaluations conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston illustrate that the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools U.S. program promotes social and emotional learning (SEL) as an outcome by offering opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to socially interact and work together in collaborative, goal-oriented environments. For example, students have reported that they have learned or enhanced SEL competencies in the domains of social awareness and relationship skills because of their participation in Unified Champion Schools activities.

There are currently nearly 8,000 schools with Unified Champion Schools programming in 49 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

To learn more about the Unified Generation, visit www.generationunified.org.