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FanSided Takes an in Depth Look at Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Programs

Seven students and one adult sit at a cafeteria table and smile at the camera.
Reedsburg Area High School in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

The following is an excerpt from the article titled Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools published by FanSided.

The benefits go far beyond the sporting event. It goes far beyond the special education students. The benefits permeate the entire school.

Dr. Jackie Jodl, Chief of Global Youth and Education, Special Olympics, rattles off a plethora—individually, the program increases empathy, belonging, and connections to the school community. It reduces bullying. “They begin to learn from one another,” she said. “Differences begin to melt away. Commonalities emerge.” Jodl continued, “Building friendships becomes easier and bridges are built, creating broader deeper societies.”

On the broader school level, benefits are found. A study done in North Carolina found that where Special Olympics Unified Champion School programs are implemented, there was a school-wide improvement in grades and higher test scores.

Further, other minority groups within the school, including LGBTQ+, ethnic groups, and others see a rise in inclusion and a decline in bullying. “It’s not just special education kids who are thriving, all the kids are,” Jodl said.

“The best part about participating is that it’s fun and enjoyable to make new friends and see all the high schoolers together,” said Madelyn Olson, a junior at Reedsburg Area High School. A member of the school’s student council, Olson said, “For me, inclusion is making sure everyone feels welcome.”

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