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:


Outreach Opportunity

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 2021  we have allocated over $30,000 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, or other creative projects.  Projects must be pre-approved by Special Olympics Illinois.  The application process for Outreach Opportunities is open and online submissions are due by  February 10, 2021.  Money for projects will be available for distribution after February 15, 2021.  Special Olympics will work directly with selected schools to reimburse payment for funds.  If you have questions on Outreach Opportunities please email ucs@soill.org or contact Jennifer Kelso 847-207-8997.

Complete the Application Here!

Unified Champion Schools Newsletters:

Become a Unified Champion School

Interested in becoming a Unified Champion School? Complete the School Commitment Form and a staff member will contact you.

Inclusive Sports

Inclusive Sports

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.

Youth Leadership and Advocacy

Youth Leadership and Advocacy

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.

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 Kelso, who can be reached at 847-207-8997.

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Participating School Map and Contacts