Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman announced today that Victor Senior High School was one of nine New York high schools named a National Banner Unified Champion Schools in recognition of their leadership in creating an inclusive school community where all students are accepted, celebrated and included. The distinction marks the highest level of achievement for Unified Champion Schools in the nation.
In a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, students with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same interscholastic sports team, primarily basketball and bowling. These same students also serve as youth leaders who engage the entire school community in activities that encourage and promote inclusion among their peers.
“Students, coaches and educators in more than 10,000 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools across the country are changing a generation by choosing to include all students in all activities, and our banner schools in New York are the best of the best,” said Hengsterman. “We are incredibly proud to kick off the 2020-2021 school year by recognizing the achievements of our banner schools and encouraging others to join this critically important movement to inclusion.”
Statewide, Special Olympics New York partners with more than 220 Unified Champion Schools and nearly 10,000 participating students. Upstate, a partnership with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has led to rapid Unified growth in recent years.
“The difference we have seen in our school culture since Victor began playing Unified is astonishing," said Victor Unified Coach David Vistocco. “The energy during our games and matches is electric, and the friendships between our student athletes and partners are genuine. They are such an inspiration. Every school should be a Unified Champion School!"
A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated the highest commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence. The standards were developed by a panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community nationally. The 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. To achieve banner status, Unified Champion Schools must also demonstrate that they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.
To get involved in Unified Sports with Special Olympics New York, visit specialolympics-ny.org/unified or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Special Olympics New York
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 220 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.