Posted on August 21st, 2019 in Featured, News

Perry Meridian High School is among 14 Indiana schools to receive Special Olympics North America’s national banner recognition. The schools are being honored for their efforts to engage students with and without intellectual disabilities in inclusive activities during the 2018-2019 school year. The schools are all participants in Special Olympics Indiana’s Unified Champion Schools and Champions Together programs and are being honored for meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy, and respect.

Indiana’s National Unified Champion Banner schools are:  Blackford Jr.-Sr. High School, Carmel High School, Carroll High School (Fort Wayne), Columbus East High School, East Noble High School, Fishers High School, Goshen High School, Harrison High School (West Lafayette), Mooresville High School, Muncie Central High School, North Side High School (Fort Wayne), Perry Meridian High School, South Ripley High School, and West Lafayette High School.

The schools are among a select number across the nation to receive this distinction, and each will be presented with a banner to hang in their school this fall. One of the 14 schools will be further recognized as part of the “ESPN Honor Roll” for 2019, listed among the top 34 inclusive schools in the nation.

“We are incredibly proud of the way that schools across Indiana have embraced this idea that students of all abilities can and should lead us toward a better, more inclusive future,” said Special Olympics Indiana President and CEO Jeff Mohler. “These 14 schools have gone above and beyond in their commitment to this program and they deserve every bit of this recognition for helping to create unified school communities.”

The aim of the Unified Champion Schools program is to empower youth to become agents of change by encouraging special education and general education students to work together—along with educators and administrators—to promote social inclusion through a variety of year-round activities related to three main components: Unified Sports®, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole-School Engagement.

Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has an inclusive school climate and that has demonstrated a commitment to the program by meeting 10 national standards of excellence defined by a panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the academic community. National banner schools also must demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

Through an innovative partnership with the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) known as Champions Together, Indiana has become a global leader in the implementation of Unified Champion Schoolsprogramming. This partnership has led to the establishment of Unified Track and Field and Unified Flag Football as officially sanctioned IHSAA sports—along with the development of state championships in Unified Bocce and Unified Bowling—and has helped to provide new opportunities for students of all abilities to “play unified” and to learn from each other while representing their schools in competition.

“The IHSAA is extremely proud of our member schools for achieving this prestigious recognition from Special Olympics,” said IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox. “These schools have embraced the inclusion revolution and in doing so, have positively changed the cultures in their schools and communities.  There are very few considerations more important than these enhancements to the scholastic experience.”

More than 650 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Indiana, representing a full 10 percent of the more than 6,500 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics has a global goal of creating 10,000 Unified Champion Schools by 2020.

The Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research by the Center for Social Development and Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, to be an effective and replicable means to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate.

To see photos of the PMHS Unified Team, visit https://pmhsfalcons.com/photos.

For more information about Unified Champion Schools or Champions Together, contact Special Olympics Indiana at 317-328-2000 or visit www.specialolympics.org/our-work/unified-champion-schools.

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ABOUT SPECIAL OLYMPICS INDIANA 
Special Olympics Indiana is a nonprofit organization that is a part of the global Special Olympics movement, using sport, health, education, and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1969 and celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Special Olympics Indiana is a sports organization that uses the power of sport as a catalyst for social change, working to open hearts and minds toward people with intellectual disabilities and to create inclusive communities across the state. With the support of over 10,000 coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics Indiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 17,000 athletes and unified partners at no cost to the participants. Learn more by visiting www.soindiana.org.

ABOUT CHAMPIONS TOGETHER
Champions Together is a collaborative partnership between the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and Special Olympics Indiana that promotes servant leadership among student athletes while empowering students of all abilities to become agents of change through the implementation of Special Olympics’ Unified Champion Schools programming. Since 2012, Champions Together has facilitated inclusive student leadership, whole school engagement activities, and enabled students with and without intellectual disabilities to represent their schools in Unified Sports® officially sanctioned by the IHSAA. For more information visit www.soindiana.org/champions-together  or contact Champions Together Director Lee Lonzo at llonzo@nullihsaa.org.

ABOUT THE INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, INC. (IHSAA)
The IHSAA is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization that is self-supporting without the use of tax monies. Since its founding in 1903, the Association’s mission has been to provide wholesome, educational athletics for the secondary schools of Indiana. Its 410-member high school—public, institutional, parochial and private—pay no annual membership fee or incur entry fees to play in the Association’s tournaments. A state tournament series is conducted annually in 22 sports, 10 for girls, 10 for boys and two co-ed (unified flag football and unified track and field). A 19-person board of directors, elected by member school principals, governs the organization. Learn more by visiting www.ihsaa.org.

This news release was written in collaboration with Special Olympics Indiana.