Unified Schools in New Mexico Special Olympics 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: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement.
New Mexico Unified Champion Schools, 2019-2020 School Year
36 total schools
12 Elementary Schools
11 Middle Schools
11 High School
1 K-12 School
516 Athletes Participated
636 Partners participated
11 different sports
25 total events
Picacho Middle School (Las Cruces) 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020
Sierra Middle School (Las Cruces) 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020
La Cueva High School (Albuquerque) 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020
John Baker Elementary School (Albuquerque) 2018-2019, 2019-2020
Valley View Elementary School (Las Cruces) 2018-2019
Lincoln Middle School (Rio Rancho) 2019-2020
Mayfield High School (Las Cruces) 2019-2020
Manzano High School (Albuquerque)2018-2019, 2019-2020
“Going into the Unified Schools, you see a definite difference in student attitudes about inclusion compared to before the program existed. In all of these schools, inclusion and disability acceptance is just part of the culture now. It truly is an atmosphere where all students have an opportunity to be a part of the social fabric and get to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.”
— Rebecca Whitlock, Program Manager for Unified Champion Schools
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 social climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel 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. Though each school’s program looks different, the basic building blocks remain the same.