CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Special Olympics Wyoming announced today that Johnson Junior High School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, is receiving national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without intellectual disabilities.
The school is receiving this distinguished status as a result of meeting 10 national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect, according to a press release. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
The primary activities within these standards include Special Olympics Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates; inclusive youth leadership; and whole-school engagement. National banner schools should also demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future, the release states.
“We are excited about the work that Johnson Junior High School is doing to promote inclusion within our schools and congratulate them on their well-earned achievement of this honor! Johnson Junior High is an exemplary example of how powerful the voices of our students can be as change makers and leaders, and we are extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said Jen Haines, president and CEO of Special Olympics Wyoming.
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: Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. As many as 19.5 million young people are taking part in inclusive experiences through Special Olympics, the release states.
More than 60 schools are currently participating in Unified Champion Schools programming in Wyoming, as part of 8,300 schools across the country engaged in the program. Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023–24 school year.
The 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 to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate, the release states.