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

Unified Champion Schools initiatives include a host of core activities, both on the national and the grass-roots level. Local projects that meet Unified Champion Schools objectives are supported through an outreach process for local Special Olympics Programs. Special Olympics Illinois is offering a second round of outreach opportunities. This application process is open from January 25 – February 10, 2019. There is no minimum amount of funds that need to be requested per application. The maximum award will be $1,500. Students, teachers or schools that receive the funds will be notified by February 15, 2019, for project completion with all receipts turned in by June 15, 2019.

Apply for Outreach Opportunity


Become a Unified Champion School

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

Youth Activation Committee

The Youth Activation Committee is dedicated to bringing respect and inclusion to schools throughout the state. They committ their time to attend the yearly bootcamp, YAC meeting, Capitol Hill Day and to the promotion of inclusion and fundraising for the cause.

Meet our Youth Activation Committee


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.

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