Unified Champion Schools

What is Unified Champion Schools

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is an all ages education based program that is supported through the Federal Department of Education. There are many moving parts to Unified Champion Schools, though they all share one driving force: the goal of activating young people and giving them the tools, skills, dispositions, and opportunities to build change and to motivate their schools to have true cultures of inclusiveness.

Unified Champion Schools’s diverse activities can be grouped into three major components: Inclusive SportsYouth Leadership and Advocacy and Whole School Engagement. Each is a vital and required element of a Unified Champion School.

Watch the video below to find out more:

Youth Activation Committee

Click Here to apply to be part of next year’s Youth Activation Committee

The Youth Activation Committee (YAC) is made up of young people from across the state who work together to promote communities where all young people are agents of change.  YAC members provide advice and counsel on strategies designed to reach other youth, engage in and promote SOILL activities in their home environments, communicate the initiatives of Special Olympics Unified Schools, and network other youth across the state.  During their time on the committee, YAC members provide leadership to Special Olympics Illinois and Unified Schools by participating in major Special Olympics events. This group works together throughout the year to educate, motivate, and activate youth to become agents of change in their communities and advocate for the respect, inclusion, and acceptance of all people, regardless of abilities.

The State YAC uses a wide variety of tools to communicate effectively, such as e-mail, conference calls, Facebook, state summits, and state rallies. The goal of the State YAC is to reach out to other youth to help carry out social justice for all people.  Applications are now being accepted for the 2016-17  SOILL YAC. If you are interested in serving in this leadership role as a member please apply above.

Inclusive Sports

Inclusive SportsIn 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.


Youth Leadership and Advocacy

Youth Leadership and AdvocacyYouth 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.


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.

Whole School Engagement

 Supporting Documents


How does Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools go from a good idea to a reality? It’s simple, contact Special Olympics Illinois. Unified Champion Schools liaison is Jennifer Marcello, who can be reached at 630-200-7693.

Like Project UNIFY on Facebook and read the Project UNIFY blog.

Participating School Map and Contacts

Unified Champion Schools Announcements

Chicago Fire All Stars

Chicago Fire Unified Soccer All Stars

Created with the goal of bringing people together, Special Olympics Unified Sports teams have more than half a million participants worldwide who work together to break down stereotypes about people ...

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Why do we do what we do?

Why do we do what we do?

Each person involved in Unified Champion Schools, and Special Olympics does it for their own reasons.  They each have wonderful experiences that build up to this day, and this moment. ...

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Respect City 1

Spread the Word to End the Word – 2016 Theme “Respect City – Population Everyone”

What Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics and our supporters to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about the ...

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Chicago Fire Unified Soccer

Chicago Fire Soccer Club, SOILL Partner to Create Unified Sports Soccer Team

Special Olympics Illinois has an exciting announcement to make!  We are again partnering with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club to create a Chicago Fire Unified Soccer All Star team. This ...

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Chicago Fire, SOILL Introduce Members of Unified Soccer All-Star Team

The Chicago Fire and Special Olympics Illinois introduced on April 3 members of the inaugural Unified Soccer All-Star team, a squad composed of Illinois-based teens with and without intellectual disabilities. Selected ...

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Project Unify Video and Essay Contest

Have you participated in a Project UNIFY Illinois activity and want to share your story? Maybe you have some great footage/pictures of Project UNIFY activities?  Want to highlight all the great ...

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