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Unified Champion Schools Build Friendships, Promote Inclusivity

More than 400 schools in Colorado are Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools — schools that give students who may be excluded in sports the chance to wear a jersey, train hard, be part of a team and create lasting friendships.

Young people who have intellectual disabilities often are excluded on the playing field, sport court or any team activity. Unified Champion Schools prove it doesn’t have to be that way. Through the power of sport, Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools teams young athletes with and without disabilities. The end result? Strong friendships, inclusivity and teams that win in more ways than one. 

Anyone who has ever been part of a team knows practicing and playing together creates bonds, builds team spirit and uplifts participants. Unified partners does this on an even deeper level, where young people, those disabled and not, understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses through sports. Through Unified sports, disabled athletes can shine under the bright lights and be cheered on by their classmates.

Unified Champion Schools’ vision is to decrease bullying and exclusion, promote healthy activities and interactions, change stereotypes and negative attitudes, eliminate hurtful language and engage young people as leaders of a new social environment—helping create a new norm. Three components Unified Champion schools embrace are unified sports, whole school engagement and inclusive youth leadership.

It works: Studies prove Unified Champions Schools benefit the entire school that participates. Acceptance, positivity and inclusion are benefits of the program, including:

  • 95% of Unified Champion School liaisons felts that the UCS program has created a more socially inclusive environment.
  • 90% of liaisons indicated that the UCS program reduces bullying, teasing and use of offensive language in the school.
  • 95% of liaisons reported increased participation of students with intellectual disabilities in school activities, leading to more inclusive attitudes school-wide.65% of high school students stated that the strong relationships developed with their peers with intellectual disabilities was one of the best parts of participating in the UCS program.
  • 100% of teachers said the UCS program eased the transition from middle school to high school by fostering a sense of belonging, building relationships and providing continuity for students over time.

Join us at Alpine Bank by supporting Special Olympics Colorado’s Unified Champion Schools program, creating extraordinary, inclusive school settings across the state.

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Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

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