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Community Impact

One Movement, One Connected World

Special Olympics leaders from the United States and around the world gathered in San Diego, California to plan the expansion of Unified Schools and Unified Champion Schools.
Special Olympics leaders gathered together in a group photo holding a Play Unified. Learn Unified, Special Olympics banner.
Special Olympics leaders from 13 Programs around the world gathered together after a campfire chat in San Diego, California as part of the Special Olympics North America Unified Champion Schools Conference.

In an effort to increase social inclusion in schools across the globe, Special Olympics leaders from 48 USA states and more than 60 Special Olympics Programs from around the world gathered at the Special Olympics North America Unified Champion Schools Conference from 4-8 February in San Diego, California. Thanks to the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Special Olympics Programs outside of North America were able to join the conference for the first time to learn about implementation of Unified School programming and connect with leaders from USA Special Olympics Programs and other prominent education organizations.

“From this conference, you realize how advanced the United States is when it comes to inclusive youth leadership and Special Olympics Unified Sports,” said Marcela Brieba, Director of Unified Schools, Special Olympics Chile, “The key ingredient to this success is learning how to engage youth and other stakeholders into the investment of Unified programming. By engaging with our audiences, we can make the social change needed by the actions that we take."

Five people standing in front of large pieces of papers with post-it notes on in a brain storming session.
Special Olympics Program leaders discovering how to adapt best practices from around the world in implementation of Unified Schools.

In addition to learning about the Special Olympics North America Unified Champion School programming, attendees were also able to visit a local school to see Unified Champion School programming first-hand. Transcending the differences between education systems around the world, they saw one connecting theme: the need for social inclusion and the potential for Special Olympics Unified Champion School programming to create it.

Special Olympics staff and representatives at a Play unified Learn Unified event sitting in a group holding up a banner.
Special Olympics leaders from China, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Morocco, and Serbia BB before a Unified basketball game at Olympia High School in Chula Vista, California.

Susan Masila, National Director, Special Olympics Kenya concluded the conference with this important sentiment, “We need to position Special Olympics as a vital actor in disability work and in development. We need to position ourselves as people who can meaningful contribute to the development of the world.”

Special Olympics is doing just that through Unified Schools, implemented by a worldwide network of leaders for inclusion and with critical support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

You can read more about this impactful global partnership with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.