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Unified Champion 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.

JBES-Unified-5 brightened

New Mexico Unified Champion Schools, 2022-2023 School Year

53 total schools 
23 Elementary Schools
12 Middle Schools
15 High Schools
1 K-12 School
1 Young Athletes program
1 Juvenile Detention Center
516 Athletes Participated
636 Partners participated
11 different sports
25 total events

Unified Champion Schools® Banner Schools

Rio Rancho High School 2022-2023
University Hills Elementary School (Las Cruces) 2022-2023
Rio Rancho Elementary School 2022-2023 ESPN Top 5 National Banner School
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, 2020-2023
John Baker Elementary School (Albuquerque) 2018-2019, 2019-2020
Valley View Elementary School (Las Cruces) 2018-2019
Lincoln Middle School (Rio Rancho) 2019-2020, 2020-2023
Mayfield High School (Las Cruces) 2019-2020
Manzano High School (Albuquerque) 2018-2019, 2019-2020

“UCS truly transformed my school culture. Students and even staff are so much more welcoming and understanding of our students with disabilities. Since implementing UCS, we have seen so much more unprompted inclusion occurring within our school. Students are going up to the kiddos with disabilities and inviting them to play and are making sure they feel welcome and comfortable in all situations. It’s been really amazing to see how everyone has really come together since launching this program at our school and it just has the potential to keep growing and impacting so many.” 

– Tricia Grajeda, Rio Rancho Elementary School Educator and UCS Liaison

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.

Learn more and get info on activating a program in your school!

Email Rebecca Evans, Director of Unified Champion Schools or Samantha Swann, Program Manager of Unified Champion Schools.