Nebraska to Receive National Recognition from Special Olympics

Nebraska to Receive National Recognition from Special Olympics
Nebraska to Receive National Recognition from Special Olympics(NU Athletic Communications)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (NU Athletic Communications) - Special Olympics Nebraska has announced that the University of Nebraska, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, is receiving national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. Nebraska Athletics is receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect. An award presentation took place at the Husker Women’s Basketball game against Iowa on February 18th. 

Nebraska will be amongst a select number of schools to receive this distinction. They have been presented with a banner to hang in their school and be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status.

”The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Athletics are proud to receive recognition from Special Olympics for our efforts to strive toward inclusion,” said Dr. Lawrence Chatters, Nebraska Executive Associate A.D. for Strategic Initiatives. “A special thank you to the UNL Campus Recreation Center for all they do to provide opportunities through Unified Intramural Programming. This recognition is a significant designation that will inspire us to continue building out programming that is inclusive for all. We will also continue to engage our staff, students and student-athletes in education and activities that help us appreciate the many contributions and talents of students with disabilities. I am hopeful that our fanbase will be active on this journey with us and help us champion these efforts across Husker Nation. Go Big Red!”

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.

More than 230 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Nebraska as part of more than 8,000 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research, to be an effective and replicable means to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate*. Key data points include:

  • 96% of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.
  • 96% of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
  • 92% credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing, and offensive language.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.

The primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports® (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. National banner schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

*Evaluation conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston

About Special Olympics Nebraska

Special Olympics Nebraska is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1972. The mission of Special Olympics Nebraska is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, and other Special Olympics athletes and the community.