Special Olympics Indiana Partners with The Akers Group North America in Expanding Unified Champion Schools Program, Targeting Underserved Communities

by | May 24, 2021 | Press Room

As a global leader in the implementation of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model, Special Olympics Indiana has been selected as one of 12 state programs to launch a new city school initiative this fall.

INDIANAPOLIS — Special Olympics Indiana announced today a partnership with The Akers Group (TAG) North America as part of a targeted effort to expand its Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) program in urban areas and underserved communities, beginning with Indianapolis.

Headquartered at the RISE Learning Center on the city’s south side, TAG is a behavioral health, education, and childcare services company rooted in helping children and families through difficult situations by providing positive choices and fostering positive attitudes. Founder and Director of Operations Chris Akers, a longtime Special Olympics Indiana volunteer, will work alongside the organization’s UCS staff as a consultant.

“We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with Special Olympics Indiana to facilitate a new initiative that will target underserved communities in Indianapolis,” Akers said. “TAG is excited to be in the forefront of this effort and to uphold Special Olympics’ goal of unleashing the voice of young people of all abilities to be advocates for inclusivity.”

The Special Olympics UCS program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change in schools at the pre-K through university levels. With sports as the foundation, the three component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with the tools and training needed to create sports, classroom, and school climates of acceptance for people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Building on more than a decade of proven success in reducing bullying and helping to foster positive learning environments through UCS programming, Special Olympics is now aiming to make a greater impact among underserved communities in urban centers by way of its new Unified Champion City Schools (UCCS) initiative, launching this fall. UCCS will target communities where young people with the deepest needs live and demonstrate what can occur when sport, leadership, and engagement feature prominently in the way schools engage the youth they are built to serve.

As a global leader in the implementation of the UCS model through its Champions Together partnership with the Indiana High School Athletic Association, Special Olympics Indiana has been selected as one of 12 state programs to pilot this new, targeted effort.

“Special Olympics Indiana is honored to be among the state programs chosen to start the Unified Champion City Schools initiative, and we look forward to expanding our efforts into new schools in Indianapolis while strengthening our relationships with existing partner schools,” Special Olympics Indiana President & CEO Jeff Mohler said. “We are privileged to be partnering with The Akers Group to ensure that all students, of all backgrounds, have the opportunity to benefit from our programs in which sports empower and unite.”

In his role as a consultant to Special Olympics Indiana, Akers will facilitate this partnership and spearhead the organization’s launch of the UCCS program in Indianapolis, drawing on TAG’s resources, connections, and experiences. TAG will work to build stakeholder relationships and grow the UCS program in newly recruited schools, further striving to achieve goals set by Special Olympics North America in establishing a presence that extends beyond the classroom and into the greater community.

Learn more about Special Olympics Indiana’s Unified Champion Schools and Champions Together programs by visiting soindiana.org/schools.

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Special Olympics Indiana is a nonprofit organization that is part of the global Special Olympics movement, using sport, health, education, and leadership programs everyday around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. We are a sports organization that uses the power of sport as a catalyst for social change, working for more than 50 years to open hearts and minds toward people with intellectual disabilities and to create inclusive communities across the state. With the support of over 10,000 coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics Indiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 18,000 athletes and unified partners at no cost to the participants.

The Akers Group (TAG) is rooted in helping children and families through difficult situations by providing positive choices and fostering positive attitudes. Driven by four guiding principles (education, recreation, vocation, and leisure skills), TAG provides a full range of services for youth and families, including: supporting schools behaviorally and building positive cultures; mental and behavioral health; before and after school care; and camps in the winter, spring, summer, and fall. Learn more by visiting www.theakersgroup.com.

CONTACT:  Nathan Barnes, Manager of Grants & Communication