Unified Champion Schools® Work Proven to Increase Inclusion

Unified Champion School

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® builds on Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, experiences and impacts to shape a generation that welcomes everyone.

Three million young people participate in 6,500 Unified Champion Schools across the country. Via Unified Schools, 272,000 students participate in Unified Sports. These opportunities are made available through funding from the Department of Education. Special Olympics is on track to reach 7,500 schools by the end of this school year and 8,500 next year.

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Special Olympics PA Impact

The Unified Champion Schools program has been very effective in improving overall school climate through its three components:  Interscholastic Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement activities.  Through these programs, students become empowered, school communities become more inclusive, and participants benefit through social and emotional learning outcomes.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have expanded our Unified Champion Schools program into 164 total schools (149 high schools and 15 elementary/middle schools) statewide (23 counties and the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia).

During the 2017-18 School Year:

  • 2,362 students participated in the Interscholastic Unified Sports of bocce, track and field and/or soccer within their schools (our projection for the current year is approximately 3000)
  • 108,411 students in PA were exposed to inclusive programs/education through the Unified Champion School program initiatives

Over the next 5 years, Special Olympics PA has lofty goals to reach more than 400 schools around the state, including all of the schools in the cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and York as part of our “Cities of Inclusion” initiative.  To do that will require more than $3.5 million in new funding, and we look to our federal and state government, corporate, foundation and individual partners to enable us to achieve these goals.


Statement in Response to Rescinded Funding Cuts

We express our gratitude to President Trump for re-authorizing funding for Special Olympics school-based programming. He joins a long history of over 50 years of United States Presidents and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle in their support of Special Olympics and the work we do in communities throughout the country.

This is a non-partisan issue and we are proud of our work to create inclusion in 6,500 U.S. schools and among young people. This is a crucial time in our schools and our communities. Programs like Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools are transforming school climates to create a safer and more inclusive world.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from Special Olympics athletes, young people, and the community at large and encourage everyone to continue their support of our school-based programming until we have reached all 100,000 schools in the country.

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