Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is an education-based project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education that uses the sports and education programs of Special Olympics to activate young people across the U.S in order to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change - fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics believes that through sports young people can make a difference in friendships, schools and communities. Project UNIFY® expanded from 8 to 53 schools throughout Michigan for the 2011-2012 academic year. The belief of Project UNIFY® is that young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow - but they can be leaders today in their schools, their communities, and around the world.
All Schools are involved in the Core Activities of the program which include:
Communication and Engagement: Be a Fan and Spread the word to end the word "R" word campaigns, social networking and monthly updates.
Inclusive Schools: Get Into ItTM, Partners Clubs, School Enrichment, Youth Summits, Young AthletesTM
Inclusive Sports: Unified Sports® including Poly hockey, basketball, bocce, bowling and athletics or Unified Recreational Sports activity such as walking or exercise club or dodge ball leagues
Athlete Leadership & Self-Advocacy: Athlete Leadership Programs, Training and Education, Youth Forums
Every school involved with Project UNIFY® is reporting on what an impact Project UNIFY® is having on their students and schools. Anne Goudie, Area Director for Area 8 and Lansing Schools said, "The best part about it was how much the program is impacting our general education students and the fact that students are asking how they can become part of the project. Several schools have gone to meeting every week instead of 2X month. All have done an athletic and social experience. Cumberland reported how the program has decreased bullying school wide. Everyone had inspiring special stories to share. One of the best is that tomorrow, the Sexton High School program will be attending the Winter Ball at the Lansing Center together. For young adults in Lansing this is a pretty big formal event that the CI students never attend. The YAC from Sexton is going together. The partners have been instrumental in making sure that the CI students have the appropriate clothing, hygiene and social skills to attend."
Special Olympics Project UNIFY® Key Characteristics
Project UNIFY® is committed to ensuring that the following characteristics of effective practice are in place and consistently achieved in initiative schools.
- Youth Leadership
- School/Community Collaborations
- Continuous Improvement
- Professional Development
- Unifying Programming
- Creating and Sustaining Relationships
Project UNIFY Outcomes
- The magic of Project UNIFY® is manifested in the inclusive friendships formed, seeing paired youth in action as leaders, creating communities of caring and respect.
- Youth become core leaders in their school communities using Unified Sports and Spread the Word to End the Word as the catalyst for impacting change in a school climate.
- Administrators and teachers take the educated risk to support the vision and insight of youth to create inclusive environments in their schools through Unified Sports and youth leadership opportunities with a clear vision of impacting school environments.
- The inspiration and passion that comes from experiencing Special Olympics sports motivates young people to seek a world of unity, and then provides students with and without disabilities with the skills and opportunities to create social change.
- Policymakers and education leaders develop policies and support quality practices to encourage positive school climates with safe and nurturing learning environments for all students.
Special Olympics Michigan is excited to be part of this wonderful project funded by the Department of Education. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue in the next school year.
Interested in learning more about how to start a Project UNIFY® program in your school?
Ready to register your school as a Project UNIFY® school?