Nebraska will receive national recognition from the Special Olympics

LINCOLN, Neb. (NU Athletic Communications) – Special Olympics Nebraska announced that the University of Nebraska, a Special Olympics unified champion school, is receiving national flag recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. Nebraska Athletics receives this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect. The presentation of the award took place during the Husker women’s basketball game against Iowa on February 18.

Nebraska will be among a select number of schools to receive this distinction. They were awarded a banner to hang in their school and be included in a list of other schools across the country that have achieved this distinguished status.

“The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Athletics are proud to receive recognition from Special Olympics for our efforts to strive toward inclusion,” said Dr. Lawrence Chatters, Nebraska Executive Associate AD for Strategic Initiatives. “Special thanks to the UNL Campus Recreation Center for all it does to provide opportunities through unified intramural programming. This recognition is a significant designation that will inspire us to continue building programming that is inclusive for all. We will also continue to involve our staff, students and student-athletes in education and activities that help us appreciate the many contributions and talents of students with disabilities. I hope our fan base will be active on this journey with us and help us support these efforts throughout the Husker Nation. Go big red!

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a strategy for schools from kindergarten through college that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create welcoming school environments, using three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.

More than 230 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Nebraska as part of more than 8,000 schools across the country committed to the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education. This model has been shown through research to be an effective and replicable means of providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate*. Key data includes:

  • 96% of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.
  • 96% of the teachers involved believe that participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
  • 92% credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing and abusive language.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of partnership, commitment and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A unified champion school receiving national flag recognition is one that has demonstrated a commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 National Standards of Excellence. These standards were developed by a national group of Special Olympics leaders and the educational community.

Primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports® (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership, and whole-school engagement. Schools of National Flags they should also be able to demonstrate that they are self-sufficient or have a plan in place to support these activities in the future.

*Assessment conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Information on the Nebraska Special Olympics

Special Olympics Nebraska is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1972. The mission of Special Olympics Nebraska is to provide year-round athletic training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing them with continued opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families and other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

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