Unified Champion Schools®

Building upon Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, experiences, and impacts, the Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. Our goal is to engage students of all ages and abilities and to help shape a Unified Generation that Chooses to Include.

With sports as the foundation, the UCS model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.

This is accomplished by implementing the program’s four pillars: inclusive youth leadership opportunities, Unified Sports®, whole school engagement, and collaborative fundraising. 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 students, teachers, and administrators.

WHAT MAKES A UNIFIED CHAMPION SCHOOL?

Inclusive Youth Leadership

Opportunities for youth with and without intellectual disabilities to become agents of change within their school, community, and state.

Special Olympics Unified Sports®

Students develop athletic skills while forming friendships, fostering respect for each other, and becoming leaders on and off the court.

Whole School Engagement

An important feature of creating a socially inclusive school climate is engaging the entire school community in the process.

Collaborative Fundraising

School communities work together to raise the money needed to ensure that the UCS program is self-sustaining and can continue to grow.

Champions at Every Level

As a global leader in the implementation of UCS programming, Special Olympics Indiana works with partners including the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), the Indiana Middle Level Education Association (IMLEA), and the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education (ICASE) to reach more than 260,000 students in over 650 Indiana schools each year.

Participating schools are challenged to engage their entire school community in inclusive activities and to achieve certain goals related to each of the four pillars of the UCS program. Schools that meet or exceed each of these milestones in a given school year are awarded a recognition banner, while those that go above and beyond may be eligible for national recognition by Special Olympics North America.

Learn more about the National Banner Recognition Program and Indiana’s honorees.

Indiana’s National Banner Schools

CLASS OF 2020

Bedford North Lawrence High School
Center Grove High School
DeKalb High School
Franklin Central High School
Indian Creek High School
Mount Vernon High School
Rochester Community Middle School
Valparaiso High School*

CLASS OF 2019

Blackford Jr.-Sr. High School
Carmel High School*
Carroll High School (Fort Wayne)
Columbus East High School
East Noble High School
Fishers High School
Goshen High School
Harrison High School (West Lafayette)
Mooresville High School
Muncie Central High School
North Side High School (Fort Wayne)
Perry Meridian High School
South Ripley High School
West Lafayette High School

Video Library

Learn about Special Olympics Indiana’s UCS program and follow Champions Together on YouTube to see more videos, including the Unified Champion Spotlight Series hosted by Craig Tornquist.

About Young Champions

Young Champions is a partnership between Special Olympics Indiana and ICASE that facilitates participation in UCS programming by elementary and pre- schools throughout Indiana. Schools that have distinguished themselves through inclusive activities and by meeting or exceeding all of the following criteria are recognized annually with a Unified Champion Schools banner:

  • All school-sponsored UCS activities must be planned, organized and administered by an “Inclusive Student Leadership Team” that strives to do things WITH students with intellectual disabilities, NOT FOR them.
  • The school must participate in at least one activity designed around “Whole School Engagement” and/or a school-wide fundraiser for Special Olympics Indiana that promotes and encourages awareness, respect, and inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • The school must organize and participate in at least one Unified Sports® activity, such as a Unified Track and Field meet, a Unified Fitness Club, a Unified Physical Education class, or
    a Unified competition involving students and/or local Special Olympics athletes.
  • The school must fundraise a minimum of $750 for Special Olympics Indiana to assist in sustaining and expanding UCS activities.

For more information, contact Lisa Graham, Unified Champion Schools Consultant or Mike Hasch, Director of Unified Champion Schools.

Resources for Teachers & Administrators
About Champions Together in the Middle

Champions Together in the Middle is a partnership between Special Olympics Indiana and the IMLEA that facilitates participation in UCS programming by middle and intermediate schools throughout Indiana. Schools that have distinguished themselves through inclusive activities and by meeting or exceeding all of the following criteria are recognized annually with a Unified Champion Schools banner:

  • All school-sponsored UCS activities must be planned, organized and administered by an “Inclusive Student Leadership Team” that strives to do things WITH students with intellectual disabilities, NOT FOR them.
  • The school must participate in at least one activity designed around “Whole School Engagement” and/or a school-wide fundraiser for Special Olympics Indiana that promotes and encourages awareness, respect, and inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • The school must organize and participate in at least one Unified Sports® activity, such as a Unified Track and Field meet, a Unified Fitness Club, a Unified Physical Education class, or
    a Unified competition involving students and/or local Special Olympics athletes.
  • The school must fundraise a minimum of $750 for Special Olympics Indiana to assist in sustaining and expanding UCS activities.

For more information, contact Tori Batson, Manager of Champions Together in the Middle or Mike Hasch, Director of Unified Champion Schools.

2018-2019 Banner Schools
  • Brownsburg East Middle School
  • Brownsburg West Middle School
  • Lowell Middle School
  • Mt. Vernon Middle School
  • Norwell Middle School
  • Paul F. Boston Middle School
  • Rochester Middle School
  • Shelbyville Middle School
  • South Ripley Junior High School
  • Tri-West Middle School
About Champions Together

Champions Together is a partnership between Special Olympics Indiana and the IHSAA that facilitates participation in UCS programming by high schools throughout Indiana. Schools that have distinguished themselves through inclusive activities and by meeting or exceeding all of the following criteria are recognized annually with a Unified Champion Schools banner:

  • All school-sponsored UCS activities must be planned, organized and administered by an “Inclusive Student Leadership Team” that strives to do things WITH students with intellectual disabilities, NOT FOR them.
  • The school must participate in at least one activity designed around “Whole School Engagement” and/or a school-wide fundraiser for Special Olympics Indiana that promotes and encourages awareness, respect, and inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • The school must organize and participate in at least one Unified Sports® activity, such as a Unified Track and Field meet, a Unified Fitness Club, a Unified Physical Education class, or
    a Unified competition involving students and/or local Special Olympics athletes.
  • The school must fundraise a minimum of $1500 for Special Olympics Indiana to assist in sustaining and expanding UCS activities.

For more information, contact Lee Lonzo, Champions Together Consultant or Mike Hasch, Director of Unified Champion Schools.

History

The establishment of the Champions Together partnership was announced at the IHSAA headquarters on December 17, 2012. The partnership evolved from IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox’s charge to the IHSAA Student Advisory Committee (SAC) to engage in “servant leadership” and discover ways to give back to their schools and communities.

The IHSAA SAC researched options and unanimously requested that an official partnership be formed with Special Olympics Indiana as the most appropriate fit for education-based athlete servant leadership. Special Olympics International has supported Champions Together as a model program to activate schools through “Project Unify” and subsequent Unified Schools initiatives, which also carries the endorsement of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA).

During the first full year of the program:  26 schools were earned the Champions Together award banner for achieving all four (4) of Project Unify goals, while a total of 197 high schools achieved at least one goal; 13 schools participated in the inaugural IHSAA Unified Track & Field state championship; and all participating schools combined to raise in excess of $75,000 for the support of Champions Together activities. In the years since, these numbers have grown exponentially.

2018-2019 Banner Schools
  • Brownsburg East Middle School
  • Brownsburg West Middle School
  • Lowell Middle School
  • Mt. Vernon Middle School
  • Norwell Middle School
  • Paul F. Boston Middle School
  • Rochester Middle School
  • Shelbyville Middle School
  • South Ripley Junior High School
  • Tri-West Middle School
About Collegiate Champions

Collegiate Champions facilitates participation in UCS programming by colleges and universities throughout Indiana. Schools that have distinguished themselves through inclusive activities and by meeting or exceeding all of the following criteria are recognized annually with a Unified Champion Schools banner:

  • All school-sponsored UCS activities must be planned, organized and administered by an “Inclusive Student Leadership Team” that strives to do things WITH students with intellectual disabilities, NOT FOR them.
  • The school must participate in at least one activity designed around “Whole School Engagement” and/or a school-wide fundraiser for Special Olympics Indiana that promotes and encourages awareness, respect, and inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • The school must organize and participate in at least one Unified Sports® activity, such as a Unified Track and Field meet, a Unified Fitness Club, a Unified Physical Education class, or
    a Unified competition involving students and/or local Special Olympics athletes.
  • The school must fundraise a minimum of $ for Special Olympics Indiana to assist in maintaining and expanding Champions Together in the Middle activities.

For more information, contact Mike Hasch, Director of Unified Champion Schools.

Resources for Teachers & Administrators

School Assemblies

Hosted by comedian Craig Tornquist, our high energy school assemblies are an uplifting and fun way to energize your school while learning about Champions Together and Unified Champion Schools. Best known for his love of audience participation, Craig has delighted more than 3,000 school assembly crowds across the country and is joined by Special Olympics Indiana staff and student ambassadors in providing an overview of our program.

Learn more.

Youth Ambassadors

The Special Olympics U.S. Youth Ambassadors are a group of 30 youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities who are striving to make the nation a more inclusive place for all. These youth leaders act as advocates, share stories, and demonstrate the values of Inclusive Youth Leadership across the country. Indiana is represented in this elite group by athlete Liam Price (Center Grove HS) and partner Elizabeth Price (Carmel HS).

Learn more.

Contact Us

Are you ready to take the next step and become a Unified Champion School? Contact a member of our team below.

MIKE HASCH

Director of Unified Champion Schools
mhasch@soindiana.org

LEE LONZO

Champions Together Consultant
LLonzo@ihsaa.org

TORI BATSON

Manager of Champions Together in the Middle
tbatson@soindiana.org

LISA GRAHAM

UCS/Young Champions Consultant
lgraham@soindiana.org