Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (UCS) initiative is an education and sports based strategy powered by engaged youth that increases athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities, while creating communities of acceptance for all. This programming promotes social inclusion in schools to ensure special education and general education students are equitably engaged.

How It Works

The Unified Champion Schools initiative is a comprehensive program that combines Inclusive Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement to provide opportunities for young people of all abilities to be leaders in their schools and communities.

Through inclusive leadership clubs, students come together to organize inclusive sports and social and educational activities that engage the entire school in creating an environment where every student feels challenged, supported and connected.

What Makes a Unified Champion School

Through the Play Unified School Partnership, we assist schools with implementing the three pillars of a Unified Champion School:

  • Inclusive sports – The Unified Sports® programs including Interscholastic Unified Sports, Unified PE or Unified Intramurals, Special Olympics Unified Sports and Special Olympics Young Athletes
  • 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
  • Whole School Engagement – Awareness and education activities that promote inclusion and reach the majority of the school population. Examples include such things as Spread the Word to End the Word (RWord) Campaigns, Pep Rallies or “Fans in the Stands” for Unified Sports teams, Respect Campaigns or student fundraising.

It is the combination of these three components that provides the most opportunity for creating positive school climates. Through their commitment to inclusion and awareness, Unified Champion Schools ensure that all students, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, become part of the school’s social fabric.

Get Started

Are you a student, parent or teacher looking to get your school started on the path to becoming a Unified Champion School? Contact Susan Colacello at scc@sonj.org or visit our resources page to get started!

Or, if you want to take a peek at what our partner schools are up to, take a look at our list of school opportunities to see what all of the hype is about.