Last week, Special Olympics Virginia Capital Region Director, Pam Mines was joined by former NFL player, Ray Roberts, National Director, Special Olympics Unified Schools Urban Development, to welcome parents and teachers from Richmond Public Schools (RPS) and provide them with an overview of Special Olympics Virginia's FREE Unified Champion Schools programs and online resources.
For more than a decade, Special Olympics Virginia has been working to expand its School-Based Program network and currently boasts 400+ PK-12 partner schools in more than 50 jurisdictions across the state. Thanks to local support from partners like the Robins Foundation, The Supply Room, Virginia Farm Bureau and Wells Fargo Foundation, Special Olympics Virginia has successfully launched numerous Unified Champion School programs in the greater Richmond area. Current program activity in greater Richmond includes Champions Together Track & Field teams in high schools, Unified Basketball League play in middle schools and Young Athletes programs in elementary schools.
Fueled by the massive interest expressed in last week's RPS stakeholder meeting, Mines has widely shared notes and documents in order to foster continued dialogue among new and existing stakeholders as Special Olympics Virginia begins its busy spring activity schedule. Partner schools have been implementing turnkey curricula since the beginning of the school year. Many partner schools will help to kick off school-wide awareness activities in early March with the 10th annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. These activities help create support and excitement leading up to large, district-wide showcase events that are part of the statewide ABLEnow Feet Meet Series in April and May. Students of all abilities are also able to contribute to a new blog to help amplify the voice of youth activists who support the Inclusion Revolution!
Special Olympics Virginia's newly unveiled 2018-2020 strategic plan places increased emphasis on quality standards for all School-Based Program partners. By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, our goal is to have at least 280 PK-12 schools meet national quality standards and 350 partner schools offering at least one Unified Sports opportunity for students with and without disabilities. In addition to assisting schools in remaining compliant with longstanding federal disability law related to extracurricular athletics, many partner schools in Virginia report that Special Olympics' national quality criteria also aligns with school level and district level strategies for increasing student engagement and fostering inclusive learning environments.