Special Olympics Arizona Unified Schools is an education and sports-based strategy powered by an engaged student community that breaks down the barriers that separate students with and without intellectual disabilities. The Unified movement activates youth, engages educators, and promotes school communities of acceptance and inclusion where all young people are agents of change. It aims to increase athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities. The four components of Unified Champion Schools are Inclusive Student Leadership, Inclusive Sports, Inclusive Health and Whole School Engagement. All four areas are crucial to shift the culture of a school towards inclusion. What a Unified Champion School “looks like” can vary greatly from school to school, based on the needs, goals, schedules and other factors unique to each school; but the basic building blocks remain the same. Together we are creating a Unified Generation that Chooses to Include.
Special Olympics Unified Sports is an education and sports-based strategy powered by an engaged youth community that increases athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities while creating communities of acceptance for all. At no cost to any athletes to join or participate, Unified Sports® is available for all ages, school-based community based and other day or private programs. The following are different options of how Unified Sports® is facilitated within
Inclusive Youth Leaders pave the path for their fellow students, recognizing that their peers with intellectual disabilities have the potential to be phenomenal leaders, just like their peers without intellectual disabilities. The following are different ways of how Inclusive Youth Leadership is facilitated within Unified Champion Schools®:
- Unified Clubs are inclusive school-based committees which are youth-led and athlete-driven. Unified Clubs focus on acceptance and inclusion through sports, social interaction, recreational opportunities, and supporting the incredible Unified Programs on campus!
- Unified Arts is a new program to Special Olympics Arizona! We see inclusion moving beyond just sports and Unified Arts will be hosting opportunities for people with and without intellectual disabilities to be engaged through art, music, dance, theatre, gardening, and even culinary arts!
- State Youth Activation Committee (State YAC) is a committee of Inclusive High School Leaders representing schools from across the state who directly support the Unified Champion Schools® initiatives both on and off-campus.
- Emerging Leaders with Special Olympics Arizona is an opportunity for college students and young adult professionals to come together and help promote social inclusion at their colleges and places of business through unique, individualized mentorships and learning opportunities.
- Any questions or to get involved, please contact Katie DeVenuto Katie@specialolympicsarizona.org
- Special Olympics Student Leadership Resources
- Special Olympics and National Student Council Resources
- Starting a Unified Club
Whole School Engagement is an important feature of creating a socially inclusive school climate is engaging the entire school community in the process. The following are just a few ways of how Whole School Engagement is achieved within Unified Champion Schools®:
- Spread the Word: Inclusion
- Minute that Matters: Minute that Matters is a one minute fundraiser for any school’s Special Olympics program on campus. During the designated one minute, classrooms will collect donations from students and teachers. 100% of the money raised during Minute that Matters will go directly fund Special Olympics activities in that school.
- Unified Arts
- Unified Fan Activation
Stay connected to the Unified movement even while distanced learning. Our Virtual Unified Classroom gives students the ability to stay connected from home. Whether you are participating in distanced learning or are in a classroom setting, these fun and engaging activities can be used by your Unified group.
HOW IT WORKS: Our team will host an activity that’s specifically reserved for your Unified group. All you have to do is invite your students and show up! You choose the time and date that works best for you. We suggest scheduling activities at least two weeks in advance for the best student engagement. These activities will be available all semester for your Unified group. We encourage you to take advantage of these free and fun programs on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.
Click the application link below to get started!
Unified Champion Schools Coordinator
Special Olympics Arizona has been partnering with the Arizona Interscholastic Association since 2011 to provide Unified Sports through a competitive interscholastic model. Through AIA Unified Sports, athletes and partners are able to:
- Represent their school community with pride by wearing school name/colors and competing in a legitimate arena alongside their peers
- Participate in regular-season and post-season interscholastic league play against other high school Unified Sports teams
- Qualify for advancement to AIA state-level tournaments to compete for state championship titles
- Be eligible to receive JV and Varsity letters for participation in high school athletics and activities
- Build confidence through success and positive interactions with peers
- Experience being part of a team through engagement in an inclusive environment that promotes camaraderie, competition, sportsmanship, and lifelong friendships
- Achieve excellence and recognition in interscholastic athletics and activities
- Promote academic and social support in the classroom, hallways, and overall school environment and community
Katie DeVenuto, MS
AIA Unified Sports Coordinator
Unified Physical Education provides a unique opportunity for students with and without disabilities to come together through ongoing educational and physical activities. The Unified Physical Education course is structured around the national physical education standards and grade-level outcomes, which include gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain a health-enhancing level of fitness. Additionally, the class supports the development of leadership skills for all students, and the empowerment of ALL students to foster an inclusive class and school-wide environment. Unified Physical Education courses can be a gateway for further participation in Special Olympics programs and events.
- For more information, contact Shae Knowlton, Shae@SpecialOlympicsArizona.org.
*SOAZ will be launching our very own Unified Sports PE Curriculum coming soon!