Special Olympics Global Youth Engagement seeks to create inclusion in schools and communities around the globe. Through Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and wide scale engagement, Special Olympics is creating a foundation for all individuals to practice the skill of inclusion. Each component of our programming has had a strong impact on students, teachers, parents, coaches, community leaders, and business leaders alike. The Global Youth Engagement impact report signifies the first time where you can find the work of our youth from Chile to China. These schools, Youth Leaders, and greater communities join a network of over 100,000 schools around the world building inclusive mindsets.
Special Olympics Unified Schools & Unified Champion Schools®
Using sports as a base, Special Olympics is expanding to bring social inclusion to schools and communities around the world through Unified Schools (SOUS) and Unified Champion Schools® (SOUCS) programming. Both aim to promote meaningful social inclusion by bringing students with and without intellectual disabilities together to create accepting school and community environments. In 2019 through our continued efforts, over 4,200 Unified Schools were created outside of the U.S. and over 7,600 new and returning Unified Champion Schools within the U.S. were engaged. Of these schools, 2,900 of them expanded their inclusive activities for young children ages 2-7 through our Young Athletes program.
Inclusive Youth Leadership
Building upon sports, inclusive youth leadership occurs when youth with and without intellectual disabilities work together to lead and plan advocacy, awareness, and other inclusive activities. To empower these Youth Leaders, Special Olympics created the Youth Innovation Grant initiative. Through this initiative, Youth Leaders are given the tools and resources to design, plan and implement ideas of inclusion for their schools and communities. Over 165 projects were implemented by Youth Leaders across 80 countries this past year. From projects on inclusive coding courses to Unified Zumba, check out the full map and listing here.
In order to help equip our youth leaders with the skills and resources to implement their projects, Special Olympics brings youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities at the global, Regional, National, and local levels in the form of leadership summits. Building upon the success of our Global Youth Leadership Summit, Special Olympics Africa, East Asia, and Asia Pacific held four Regional Youth Leadership Summits where 295 Youth Leaders were trained to create more inclusive environments in their communities.
"As youth leaders working together as peers, Chaica and I changed our perceptions and broke the stereotypes we both had about each other’s challenges, as we grew to become close friends. This friendship was created thanks to the Global Youth Leadership Forum, when we represented the UAE amongst participants from around the world.”
Further developing on our sports and inclusive youth leadership work, our community engagement work seeks to promote inclusion through awareness and education activities that reach a variety of individuals at all levels. The Spread the Word >> Inclusion campaign is one way for schools, communities, and workplaces to take action by pledging and encouraging others to consider actions they can take to create a more inclusive world. Spread the Word >> Inclusion empowers students across the globe with the tools to advocate for inclusion through rallies and social media. This past year resulted in over 4.8 million impressions and reaching over 3.2 million individuals on social media channels.
One of our biggest drivers to creating and establishing our community engagement is the siblings of our Special Olympics athletes. Siblings have shown to be the key to unlocking relationships with Special Olympics athletes, their families, and most importantly—their peers. In training these siblings to be connectors, Special Olympics hosted Regional Sibling Workshops in three Regions—Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America where 18 siblings were given the opportunity to learn how to engage with other siblings and the greater community.
Because of the ongoing efforts of Global Youth Engagement, youth around the world feel more supported by their communities and peers, and are more empathetic and compassionate. These numbers represent just a small fraction of the work going on in over 100,000 schools in Special Olympics’ seven Regions. Special Olympics and the youth that connects us all, are not just envisioning a more inclusive world, but also actively seeking to create one through sports, leadership, wide-scale engagement, and more.
To learn more about the work done in 2019 check out our impact report.
The 2019 Special Olympics Global Youth Engagement work is supported through partnerships with the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, The Samuel Family Foundation, IKEA Foundation, MetLife Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank, SoHo China, Tencent, ESPN, FWD Insurance, Lions Clubs International Foundation, the Microsoft Corporation, the Kantar Group, UNICEF, and Hasbro, Inc. Learn more about our work at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouth.org.