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:

Become a Unified Champion School

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

Outreach Opportunity

Apply for Outreach Opportunity


Special Olympics Illinois is offering outreach opportunities with a portion of this money.  This application process is open from October 1 – November 30, 2017.  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 December 15, 2017, for project completion by June 15, 2018.

Youth Activation Summit

The Youth Activation Summit will take place November 11-12, 2017 in East Peoria, IL. Each Unified Champion School is able to bring up to 3 pairs of students at no charge! All housing and meals are covered. To register for the Youth Activation Summit fill out the Registration Form and submit your rooming list. Registration is due October 4, 2017.


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 ...

Read More

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. ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More


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 ...

Read More


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 ...

Read More