Hendersonville Elementary School to receive national recognition from Special Olympics

Press release from Special Olympics of North Carolina

Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) has announced that Hendersonville Elementary School of Hendersonville, North Carolina, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School®, is receiving national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. Hendersonville Elementary School is receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect during the 2021-2022 school year. An award presentation will take place at the school on Friday, April 21, at which SONC President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne will present their banner.

They are receiving this award based on their work in the 2021-2022 school year. Hendersonville Elementary School is the only school in North Carolina to be newly added to this list of schools from around the country that have achieved this distinguished status.

“The foundation for building more inclusive communities starts in our schools,” said SONC President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne. “We are proud of the dedicated work of Hendersonville Elementary School’s students in their efforts to lead the way for inclusion.”

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

More than 588 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in North Carolina, as part of more than 8,000 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The following North Carolina schools are noted with a four-year national banner renewal recognition for their efforts in creating inclusive communities as a Special Olympics Unified Champion School for the 2022 school year:

  • Granite Falls Elementary School, Caldwell County
  • Kennedy Middle School, Mecklenburg County
  • Sycamore Creek Elementary School, Wake County
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Orange County
  • Wake Forest High School, Wake County

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research, 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*. Key data points include: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 involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
92% credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing, and offensive language.A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.

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. National banner schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

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

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