Unified Champion Schools
SONH aims to build a society of acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities and, by extension, for everyone. We know that sports training and competition can help achieve that goal. And we know that students – with their energy, idealism, intelligence and creativity – can be not only participants but also leaders in our mission.
To ignite young people’s passion for our cause, we have to reach them where they most often are: school. At all grade levels, students’ lives revolve around their school and school activities. That is why we conceived Special Olympics Unified Schools as a school-based initiative to create opportunities for authentic social inclusion.
Special Olympics Unified Schools consists of four components:
- Unified Sports® – provides opportunities for students with and without ID to participate on sports teams together as teammates.
- Inclusive Youth Leadership – provides opportunities for students with and without ID to take on leadership roles in promoting Special Olympics Unified Schools in their schools and communities.
- Whole-School Engagement – provides opportunities for ALL students in their schools to participate in Special Olympics Unified Schools activities.
- Sustainability – provides opportunities for long-term programming, ingrained in the fabric of a school. Schools may request funding for the first three years of participation. Additional fundraising opportunities are also available.
SONH offers a number of school-based programs that allow students the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics Unified Schools throughout their school years.
Special Olympics Unified Middle Schools
At this level, our focus is on introducing students to Special Olympics Unified Schools. Students will have the opportunity to participate in up to two ten-week seasons of Unified Sports: basketball (winter) and track & field (spring). Weekly practices during each season will focus on skill development as well as competition. A Jamboree will be held at the end of the season where students will play against teams from other schools.
Students are also introduced to Youth Leadership and whole-school activities. Students are encouraged to start inclusive clubs that focus on raising awareness of Special Olympics and Special Olympics Unified Schools in their school and community through whole-school activities.
Special Olympics Unified High Schools
By high school, a student’s participation in Special Olympics Unified Schools is in full swing. SONH, in collaboration with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA), offers three seasons of Unified Sports in New Hampshire’s high schools: fall (soccer), winter (basketball) and spring (volleyball and outdoor track). The vision of the joint NHIAA & Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH) sports project is to allow high school students with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to represent their high school by participating on a Unified Sports team providing the students with a quality experience of sports training and competition. All NHIAA Unified Sports teams represent their high school just like any other varsity level sports team. Teams practice, travel, compete against other schools during the season and have the opportunity to play for an NHIAA High School Championship.
Unified Clubs meet regularly to promote Special Olympics in their high schools. A Statewide Youth Activation Committee is comprised of a select group of student representatives from high schools across the state. In addition to promoting Special Olympics Unified Schools, the committee plans an annual Youth Summit.
A number of different whole school activities take place in Special Olympics Unified Schools High Schools. Each season pep rallies are held that include the NHIAA Unified Sports teams. Fans in the Stands events take place where students encourage their fellow students to attend a NHIAA Unified Sports game. Students work to Spread the Word to End the Word in a variety of ways (events, posters, awareness weeks, etc.). Schools also raise funds and awareness through participation in the High School and Middle School Plunge, Prep School Plunge and High School and Middle School Dip.