RALEIGH – Special Olympics of North Carolina announced that four NCHSAA member high schools will be recognized as Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools and are receiving national banner recognition for their efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without intellectual disabilities. Smithfield Selma, Ledford, West Davidson, and West Stokes High Schools are all receiving the honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect.
A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
Smithfield Selma High Principal David Allen said, “We are very proud of our Unified program! We have seen great success with students of all ability levels working together. It really is amazing to see traditional barriers be removed and just allow students to be students. Unified is leading the way for our school and our culture about how all individuals have value and a sense of belonging. SSS is a place where all students are welcome.”
Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said, “Each of our schools pride themselves on creating an atmosphere of inclusivity for all students. I am honored that Smithfield-Selma High is one of four schools in the state to receive this award from Special Olympics. This recognition is a testament to the school’s dedication to give students with disabilities meaningful athletic experiences.”
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is a strategy for schools, Pre-K through university, that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments, utilizing three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement.
More than 400 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in North Carolina, as part of more than 7,500 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-24 school year.
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research, to be an effective and replicable means of providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate.
Key data points include:
- 94 percent of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.
- 98 percent of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
- 92 percent credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing and offensive language.
*Evaluation was conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston
About Special Olympics North Carolina
Since 1968, the organization has used the transformative power of sports to improve the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Nearly 40,000 athletes in North Carolina inspire thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide. SONC offers year-round training and competition in 20 Olympic-type sports on local and state levels as well as health and wellness initiatives to improve the health status and increase access to community health resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Youth become agents of change through Unified Champion Schools, an education and sports-based program created by Special Olympics to build an inclusive environment among youth with and without intellectual disabilities as well as empower them to become youth leaders and create change in their community. Visit Special Olympics North Carolina at www.specialolympicsnc.com.