A Catalyst for Change – Unified Champion Schools
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program, formerly known as Project UNIFY®, is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change.
With sports as the foundation, the three component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. 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.
Unified Champion Schools promote a school climate that:
- is free from bullying and exclusion,
- combats stereotypes and negative attitudes,
- eliminates hurtful language,
- promotes healthy activity and interactions, and
- is welcoming and values the engagement of all students.
What is a Special Olympics Unified Champion School?
A sustaining Special Olympics Unified Champion School is a combination of three components:
- Whole School Awareness and Involvement: awareness and education activities that promote inclusion and reach the majority of the school population and all students in the school have opportunities to participate through sustained schoolwide activities.
- Inclusive Youth Leadership: students with and without intellectual disabilities working together to lead and plan advocacy, awareness, and other Special Olympics and related inclusive activities throughout the school year.
- Inclusive Sports: a fully inclusive sports or fitness program that combines an approximately equal number of students with and without intellectual disabilities, such as Special Olympics Unified Sports, Interscholastic Unified Sports, Young Athletes, Unified PE or Unified Intramurals.
Creating a socially inclusive school is a process of building a school culture that encourages, supports and expects social inclusion at the heart of how the school functions. As the above graphic illustrates, each opportunity should incorporate a combination of the components, provide unique and engaging opportunities for students to participate, and enhance current social inclusion efforts.
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