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Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Named Top Innovation of the Year by HundrED

Celebrating - HundrED Academy Choice Award Winner
Unified Champion Schools has been awarded HundrED's Academy Choice Award for top innovator of the year.

1 November, 2023 — Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® (UCS), a program dedicated to promoting inclusion and unity in education, has achieved a remarkable milestone by receiving the esteemed Academy Choice Award from HundrED, a global leader in education innovation. HundrED annually recognizes the top 100 educational innovations from around the world, and Unified Champion Schools has not only earned a spot in this prestigious list but has also been named the recipient of the Academy Choice Award, an accolade presented to the top innovation of the year.

"HundrED Academy conducts over 4,000 innovation reviews every year. We measure innovations based on their impact and scalability. The Academy Award is given every year to an innovation that has ranked extremely well on those scales. This year the prize goes to Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. The work they do in the education sector is important and impactful, and brings the joy of learning to many students."
Lasse Leponiemi, co-founder and executive director of HundrED

Currently, UCS engages over 1 million students in 30,000 schools in 148 countries with plans to reach over 2 million students in 150,000 schools in the next three years.

This award’s significance cannot be overstated, particularly given the challenges faced by students with disabilities in the education sector. According to the Global Partnership for Education's Secretariat, one of the most cited barriers to the education of children with disabilities is a negative attitude toward people with disabilities and discriminatory attitudes toward these children. Through sports, youth leadership programs, and whole-school engagement, Unified Champion Schools promote understanding, empathy, and respect, challenging stereotypes and promoting acceptance and unity among students helping to break down these barriers and shaping a more inclusive society.

"Being named a Top 100 educational innovation and receiving the Academy Choice Award from HundrED is a tremendous honor for us. It reaffirms the importance of our mission to create inclusive and equitable educational experiences for all students. We believe in the power of unity and acceptance, and this award encourages us to continue our efforts in transforming education worldwide."
Haylie Wrubel, Senior Director, Global Education Strategy & Programming at Special Olympics

The expansion and continued implementation of Unified Champion Schools has been made possible through the remarkable support and generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and the generous support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of U.A.E, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces. In addition, throughout the United States of America, the Office of Special Education at the U.S. Department of Education remains one of the strongest supporters of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools platform, bringing inclusive education through sports to thousands of schools throughout the country. This collective commitment to fostering inclusive communities and empowering students of all abilities underscores the profound impact that can be achieved when organizations and individuals unite for a common cause. Together, they pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future in education through sports.

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is committed to fostering inclusive learning environments and promoting unity among students of all abilities. The dual recognition by HundrED underscores the program's dedication to empowering students and educators to foster a culture of respect, acceptance, and inclusion within schools. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools continues to address these barriers head-on through its innovative and inclusive approach to education, with a mission to break down barriers and create a more inclusive world through education.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health and leadership. With nearly four million athletes and Unified Sports® partners and one million coaches and volunteers in more than 170 countries, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and nearly 50,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: X, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn. Learn more at

Media Contact

Jonathan Schillace

Special Olympics International
Director, Global Youth & Education Communications