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Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® Expand into Six Countries

Young adults and athletes playing parachute in a gymnasium.
Young people participate in Unified Champion Schools activities in a gymnasium in Greece in October 2019.

Building on the success of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) and reinforcing the legacy of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, has generously committed US$25 million to bring inclusive education to six countries—Argentina, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Romania and Rwanda.

Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman of the Board, and His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States and Special Olympics Board Member, publicly announced the gift on 20 July 2020 with a virtual panel discussion alongside Special Olympics Iowa Youth Leaders and US Youth Ambassadors Evie Sly and Joy Rector and Special Olympics UAE Youth Leaders and UAE Youth Input Council members Omar Alshami and Amal Jaroor.

The four Youth Leaders spoke about the importance of Special Olympics in their schools and communities. Evie Sly and Joy Rector returned home to Iowa from the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 to co-found UCS programming throughout their school district. Omar Alshami and Amal Jaroor talked about the bond they have formed as friends through Special Olympics.

Unified Champion Schools programming brings young people with and with intellectual disabilities together for Unified Sports, inclusive leadership, and whole-school engagement opportunities. Ranging from Pre-K to university, UCS programming was established in the US and has since grown to more than 50 countries around the world. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s gift will bring inclusion to schools and communities where young people with intellectual disabilities are most underserved.

The UAE has committed to bring UCS programming to all of the country’s public schools, the first nation-wide commitment of this kind and an affirmation of UCS programming effectiveness.

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