Over the past ten years, Special Olympics has actively developed and implemented a Unified Schools strategy (the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program). The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program utilizes sports as a catalyst to promote a socially inclusive school climate where acceptance, respect, and human dignity for all students is the norm.
The Unified Champion Schools program, currently implemented in 48 states, has seen significant growth and expansion over the last decade. From an initial evaluation of 493 schools during the 2008-2009 school year to an evaluation of 2,822 schools in the 2017-2018 school year, the UCS program has brought inclusive schoolwide programming in sports and leadership to an ever-increasing number of schools and students across the United States. Currently, over 6,500 schools are implementing UCS programs, providing over 8.2 million inclusive sports, leadership, and social experiences that bring students with and without disabilities together as teammates, peers, and friends.
Special Olympics New Jersey has a robust and growing UCS program with over 200 schools pre-k through 12 and 12 colleges implementing Unified Sports, Inclusive Leadership and Whole School Engagement activities that are reaching over 13,000 youth with and without intellectual disabilities. Through the Play Unified School Partnership Grant program, Special Olympics New Jersey has given over $2,000,000 in grants to schools in over 85 school districts across the state. These schools draw on the strategies and resources we provide to build schools where all students feel positive, safe, and connected and have equal access to meaningful opportunities for growth and accomplishment that will positively shape their development and futures.
The Year 10 Evaluation Full Report and the Special Olympics New Jersey State Report provides some of the strongest evidence yet of the benefits and impacts of the Unified Champion Schools program across school and age levels. As the findings demonstrate, the Unified Champion Schools program creates socially inclusive school communities that highlight the value of all members, promotes social interactions between students with and without intellectual disabilities that facilitate positive attitudes and relationships, and provides all participants with new experiences and skills that build character.
Special Olympics New Jersey State Report 2017-2018 Year 10 Evaluation Full Report
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