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- Tim Martin, CEO & President of Special Olympics Arizona

Unified Champion Schools®

  Our Goal: Creating Inclusive Schools that Foster Respect and Acceptance

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools engages schools to climates of inclusion, acceptance, respect, and human dignity for all students with and without intellectual disabilities.


Unified Champion Schools®

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® builds on Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, experiences and impacts to shape a generation that welcomes everyone. The Unified Champion Schools® approach incorporates three pillars of Special Olympics programs including: Unified Sports®, Inclusive Youth Leadership, Whole School Engagement, and related activities, while enhancing the youth experience and empowering them to be change agents in their communities. For more information, check out our brand new Unified Champion Schools Toolkit by clicking here!

Unified Sports®

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 Unified Champion Schools®:

Inclusive Youth Leadership

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.
  • Special Olympics Unified Leaders (SOUL) 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.

Whole School Engagement

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®:


Unified Arts

Now you can support Unified Sports through the Arts! Each month your school/delegation can compete in monthly art contests and it's so easy to get started; just complete the online Unified Arts Survey by clicking here! To compete in the monthly art contests, simply click here to see a calendar of events and submit your artwork to our office or simply by emailing us at! Each month you will receive notice of the upcoming art contest and who won the month's prior!

We are excited to announce Gila Ridge High School as the winner of our November Art Contest!

Tricia Severs, who works in the Special Education Department at Gila Ridge High School, shared more on their Unified Arts Project this month and stated, "These items were on display for our whole district to see! We are so thrilled to announce that our school placed 2nd in the high school division for Unified Ceramics!" Clearly, Unified means a lot to Gila  Ridge High School and we are so excited at Special Olympics Arizona to see our Unified Champion Schools finding new and innovative ways to make their campuses inclusive!

Gila Ridge High School will be included in our newsletter next month as the Unified Arts winner and will also receive a special $50 gift card to purchase more items for their Unified Arts Ceramics class! Congratulations, Gila Ridge High School!

For more infomation on the goals and initiatives of our new Unified Arts Program, click here. If you would like to see our tentative Unified Arts Calendar to save some dates, click here. If you are interested in joining the Unified Arts Committee, complete the Unified Arts Committee Candidate Profile by clicking here and then send your completed form to Brittany Meola ( for review and follow-up. 


Unified Champion Schools Banner Recognition Program

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboratin, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A National Banner Unified Champion School is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by achieving the ten standards described below. These standards are based upon the three over-arching components of a Unified Champion School which includes Special Olympics Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole School Engagement. Banner Schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these inclusive activities into the future.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Special Olympics Arizona is proud to announce the following schools have reached this prestigious national recognition!

For more information please contact your Local Area Director or Director of Support Programs, Brittany Meola,