Our Goal: Schools that Welcome All People

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. With sports as the foundation, the three component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.

This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners. 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. Join us.

A Catalyst for Change

Through data collected, Special Olympics has learned that in order to be transformative within schools, state Programs need to go beyond simply providing students the opportunity to engage in single, Special Olympics-specific initiatives. It is the connection between Special Olympics initiatives, along with the youth and school’s involvement in the design and implementation of Unified Champion Schools® that can foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students with intellectual disabilities.

We also understand how important it is for Special Olympics Maine to collaborate with educators in identifying what role Unified Champion Schools® can play in meeting their state, district and individual school’s strategic goals, whether it be promoting school climate, developing physical fitness, building character, preventing bullying, enhancing student engagement, or any other important school reform.

What is a Unified Champion Schools® School?

A “Champion” Unified Champion Schools® School is a combination of all three components; sports, youth leadership/advocacy, and a school-wide activity. In a Unified Champion Schools® school there is an understanding that Unified Champion Schools® is not just an incident or event that happens for one day, or a single experience, but rather year-long or seasonal activities. In a Unified Champion Schools school there is an expectation that acceptance and inclusion are everyday occurrences that change entire schools and impact the whole student body.

3 Components of Unified Champion Schools

  • Unified Sports® – Unified Sports partners students with intellectual disabilities with students without intellectual disabilities to train, compete and represent your school in team sports. Special education teachers have reported the program to be extremely effective at impacting youth, promoting physical activity and inspiring leadership. One teacher reported: “I’ve seen more interaction on the field today between classmates than I’ve seen in my classroom all year.” Click here for more information Unified Sports.
  • Inclusive Youth Leadership – Inclusive Youth Leadership is when young people of all abilities are given opportunities to be leaders in their schools and communities. These leadership activities help students find their voices and teach them to become change agents in their communities by promoting equity and acceptance. Social inclusion is best fostered when activities within the classroom, school, and community are designed and implemented by a diverse group of students within a school. There are many different ways to nurture youth leadership in the school setting. Ensuring that various leadership roles are inclusive to all students who have ranging skill sets, abilities, and perspectives will greatly enhance efforts to create and sustain change within the school and the community.
    The principle of meaningful involvement within inclusive youth leadership ensures every student is given an opportunity to contribute due to the unique skills and qualities they bring to their club, team, and work.
  • Whole School Engagement – Providing awareness opportunities, organized and executed by students, to the entire school community through, but not limited to, campaigns, rallies along with hosting SOMaine & Unified Sports events at your school.

Interested in learning more about how to start a Unified Champion Schools® program in your school? Click here to fill out the Unified Champion Schools® interest form.

Unified Champion Schools Resources

Social Media – Follow us at:

Contact Us

Questions about Special Olympics Maine’s Unified Champion Schools? Contact us.