Welcome to Unified Champion Schools!
The Unified Champion Schools Strategy works to further develop inclusive learning and social environments for all students, with and without disabilities. By utilizing any of the 3 components below, schools can elevate the inclusion and unification among their students as well as further social emotional learning for all.
Unified Sports Opportunities
In the Special Olympics context, the term “Inclusive Sports” has two distinct but closely intertwined meanings. One refers to giving people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports – that is, to enable them to be included in the life experience of being an athlete. The other refers to sports activities that athletes of all abilities participate in together – inclusively. Unified Champion School’s Inclusive Sport component covers both in a youth centered framework.
In Illinois, we offer a wide variety of Unified Sports and Unified Sport opportunities. Schools signing on to utilize the UCS Strategy in Illinois are required to include a Unified Sport component.
Here are the Unified Sport Opportunities we offer across Illinois:
- Young Athletes (Ages 2 – 7)
- Young Athletes Level 2: Unified Sport Skills (Ages 7-12)
- Unified Bowling (MS, HS, College)
- Unified Soccer (MS, HS)
- Unified Bocce (Ages 8 +)
- Unified Flag Football (Ages 8 +)
- Unified Tennis (Ages 8 +)
- Unified Golf (Ages 8 +)
- Unified Basketball (MS)
- Unified Track and Field (MS)
- IHSA Unified Basketball (HS)
- IHSA Unified Dance (HS)
- IHSA Unified Bass Fishing (HS)
- IHSA Unified Track and Field
- IHSA Unified eSports
- Unified Sports Day (All Ages)
- Unified PE (All Ages)
- Unified Fitness (Ages 8 + within schools)
- Unified Intermural Opportunities (All Ages)
Inclusive Youth Leadership
Youth Leadership and Advocacy is one of the essential “legs” on which Unified Champion Schools stands. Nobody understands the thoughts, emotions, attitudes and ideals of young people better than other young people. And when young people care about something, when they perceive a reality that needs changing, they bring unparalleled energy and creativity to achieving their goals. They are hungry to lead; they just need the opportunity. Unified Champion Schools is designed with a primary goal to engage youth as leaders, to give youth a voice in their schools, and to provide youth with and opportunities to become advocates for themselves and their peers. For youth with and without intellectual disabilities who are directly involved, those are leadership lessons that stay with them for life.
Across Illinois, each school offers different ways for youth to lead in Unified Settings. With Special Olympics Illinois, we have a Youth Activation Committee. This committee is filled with 20 Unified Pairs (a student with ID and a student without) from all over the state. These pairs lead a variety of sessions and engagements to help us spread the word about Unified Programming and what it means to be a part of the Unified Generation.
Whole School Engagement
When one student has an attitude of acceptance and inclusion toward people – including fellow students – who have intellectual disabilities, that is a wonderful thing. When that one student becomes many…when an entire school has a climate of acceptance and inclusion… it becomes a powerful community that represents new ways of thinking and acting. That is what Special Olympics aims to accomplish in schools through Unified Champion Schools – and it is why whole-school engagement is such a crucial component. Ultimately, when the school climate conveys and fosters understanding, inclusion, and respect for all, the students internalize those lessons for their lives both within and beyond school. This type of school climate requires the engagement of all education stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, school staff, parents and community partners. Unified Champion Schools offers a number of ways for that to happen.
In Illinois, we offer a variety of ways for schools to engage on a bigger scale. These include celebrating National Inclusive Schools Week in December, Cool School Polar Plunge opportunities in February, Respect Week in March, and promoting Back to School and other whole school assembly opportunities to celebrate Unified Achievements.
To further support your school’s Unified School programming efforts, Special Olympics Illinois will provide a limited number of Outreach Opportunities for students and staff to activate innovative projects that involve Special Olympics Unified Schools® at their school. For 2023, we have allocated over $60,000 worth of funding to be distributed directly to schools. These projects can include, but are not limited to: Unified Sports, events that promote respect, R-word activities, Get Into It activities, transportation to and from a statewide Unified event, or other creative projects. Projects must be pre-approved by Special Olympics Illinois.
The application process for Outreach Opportunities is changing this year! Applications are due for review by the 30th of each month. Special Olympics Illinois will review all applications by the 5th of each month with notifications going out to applicants by the 10th of each month. Explanation for financial distribution will be communicated to each applicant upon approval. Schools are allowed to apply for multiple Outreach Opportunities a YEAR! Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to benefit Unified Programming in your school!
If you have questions on Outreach Opportunities please email email@example.com.