Special Olympics is cultivating a global Unified Generation of young people who are advocating and demanding a more inclusive world. These young people are leading the movement for inclusion and capitalizing on opportunities to build bridges where once lay impassable chasms. The students of Doukas School in Marousi, Greece, are helping to fortify this youth-led revolution for inclusion.
When Play Unified: Learn Unified was launched across Greece in 2018, students in Doukas School, a private school, trained to become inclusive Youth Leaders. The Doukas School had long hosted a Special Olympics Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) event, consisting of sport-specific activities for athletes with severe or profound intellectual disability who are unable to participate in sport competitions because of their functional abilities. Doukas’ MATP event drew in many local athletes from special schools and grew in popularity every year among the Doukas school community. Through the Inclusive Youth Leadership trainings, the Doukas students came to recognize their power as leaders and to understand that they had the ability to change the culture of their school—starting with taking the helm of the MATP event to engage their entire student body.
The Youth Leaders devised a plan to drive inclusion in their school by making MATP a more unified event, engaging all Doukas School students and local Special Olympics athletes. The Doukas Youth Leaders began by spreading the word on the school radio station. They then organized the entire program and ensured that every athlete had a peer partner. The culminating Unified MATP event included warm-ups and sports competitions, medal ceremonies, and—since by now the entire school wanted to be involved—a roaring fan section. After the event, youth with and without disabilities presented poems they had written together about the power of inclusion and the feeling of acceptance within the school. One poem read, “We are children, and we can live our dreams in our lives, imagine a better future, look at it, full of colors...make a brand-new start, I will accept you, you will accept me in a painting of art.”
Students at Doukas School are in the forefront of a Unified Generation that is developing throughout Greece. Now, the yearly MATP has become a beloved Doukas School tradition. Students also compete in Unified basketball, an additional opportunity for students with and without disabilities to engage and form friendships. Doukas students attend other Special Olympics Hellas events, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia roundtables, and recently presented to the global Play Unified: Learn Unified community about their MATP. These young people are proud to belong to a generation that focuses on abilities rather than disabilities—a generation that is actively creating opportunities for everyone to feel included, welcomed, and valued.