State funds to help expand Unified Champion Schools program

May 18, 2017

Area lawmakers gathered at the Gates Chili High School field house Thursday to announce $200,000 in state funds to help expand Unified Champion Schools.

That's a program that brings together students with and without intellectual disabilities through education, sports and youth leadership.

It promotes inclusion through shared sport training and competition experiences.

Neal Johnson is the president and CEO of Special Olympics-New York.   He says this program can help battle issues like bullying and harassment.

“We think that when you bring people together, with and without disabilities through something that most of us take for granted, sports, we can lead a path to friendship and inclusion and acceptance.”

Johnson says this program not only involves the athletes of different abilities working together, it tries to get the entire student body involved in promoting this effort.

“We want this to be a whole school involvement led by the students themselves in the school so what we’re trying to accomplish is making sure that everybody has an appreciation for everyone’s inherent self-worth and abilities whether they are differently-abled from the rest of us or not.”

Johnson says currently about 100 schools are involved in this program, and he's hoping to eventually see it spread to all 600 public school districts in the state.

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.