Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is a strategy aimed at empowering a generation of students to change their school culture to be more socially inclusive. With sports as the foundation, the three-component model offers activities that equip students with tools and training to create teams, classrooms, and entire schools of acceptance. Unified Champion Schools are schools where students with disabilities feel welcome and are meaningfully included in all school activities, opportunities, and functions.
This is accomplished by implementing three components of Unified Champion Schools: Inclusive Student Leadership, Unified Sports, and Whole School Engagement. All three areas are crucial to shift the culture of a school toward inclusion. Once the three components are active, a school is considered a Unified Champion School.
The Unified Champion School strategy can be adapted to fit the needs of each school ranging in grade levels Pre-K to college. Each school’s implementation can look and feel different as the strategy is meant to be woven into the school’s existing fabric.
- Unified 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, Unified PE, or Unified Intramurals.
- Whole School Engagement: 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 school-wide 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.
Looking to learn more?
- Summer Liaison Conference (August)
- Unified Soccer State Finals (September)
- Regional Leadership Launch Conferences - student & adult tracks (October & November)
- Unified Bowling, Unified Flag Football and Unified Poly Hockey (November 10)
- Hall of Fame Conference (December)
- Cool School Plunges (December - February offerings)
- Spread the Word Inclusion Virtual Conferences (March)
- Unified Basketball State Finals
- Unified Day at Summer Games (May/June)
For up-to-date information, check out our live UCS Calendar.
UCS in the News
Whole School Engagement
Whole School Engagement activities positively impact school climate by including all students, teachers, staff, administrators. An inclusive school climate that fosters understanding and respect for all can influence how students think and act within and beyond the school.
Team sports bring people together. Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams do that, too and much more. About 1.4 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in a really fun way. ESPN has served as the Global Presenting Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports since 2013, supporting the growth and expansion of this program that empowers individuals with and without intellectual disabilities to engage through the power of sports.
Youth Leadership YAC
Inclusive youth leadership is when young people of all abilities are given opportunities to be leaders in their schools and communities. These leadership activities help students find their voices and teach them to become change agents in their communities by promoting equity and acceptance. Social inclusion is best fostered when activities within the classroom, school, and community are designed and implemented by a diverse group of students within a school.
Unified Champion Schools Contacts
Unified Champion Schools Partner Organizations
As schools around Michigan and the nation strive for a culture of inclusion and acceptance within hallways, the MHSAA and Special Olympics Michigan continue to grow their partnership by building inclusive school communities through sports. To learn more about the MHSAA, click here.