This past March, Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® took part and had a significant presence at the 9th annual SXSW EDU 2019 in various networking events, panels, sponsorships, and a unique exhibit at the Expo Center. This was a unique chance to show educators, administrators and thought leaders from all over the United States how Special Olympics is doing incredible work in schools.
Over thirty Special Olympics staff, volunteers, youth leaders, and distinguished guests were on hand to represent Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools to the thousands of SXSW EDU 2019 attendees. The team was fortunate to have Global Ambassador Jamaal Charles on hand to talk about his experiences with Special Olympics. In addition, we had Unified Champion Schools supporter, current defensive end for the Buffalo Bills, Eddie Yarbrough who helped start a Unifed Club when he was a student at Grandview High School in Colorado.
At the two panels hosted by Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, youth leaders took center stage and described to conference attendees why inclusion needs to be a priority:
“I want this world to this world to be a better place for kids and adults with intellectual disabilities. I want them to be included. I want them to feel like they matter in this world.”
“My friends are loving and trusting and my teammates have my back. Unified Champion Schools changed their lives and mine.”
– Youth Leader and Special Olympics Indiana athlete Mitch Bonar
“If you’re still wondering what a Unified Champion School is, I’ll summarize it for you; it is a school of advocates for inclusion, without realizing they are advocates for inclusion.”
– Youth Leader Ivalis Guajardo
The Unified Champion Schools team is so overwhelmed by the support they received at SXSW EDU and are looking forward to 2020!
Sad to see my incredibly inspiring week at @SXSWEDU come to an end! Had a blast with my @SpecialOlympics & @SONorthAmerica family and my new NFL friends @EddieYarbrough and @jcharles25 lots of fun sharing stories about the POWER of inclusion❤️ #unifiedgeneration pic.twitter.com/woXMGjNDBQ— Jen Paolantonio (@jent3112) March 7, 2019
Three million young people participate in 6,500 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® across the US with support from the US Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education. These young people make up the Unified Generation. They are taking personal ownership within their schools and communities to ensure that everyone has the right to play, learn and live together through shared leadership opportunities of students with and without intellectual disabilities. To learn more about the Unified Generation, visit: https://www.generationunified.org/