Changing the Future for Inclusion

According to the California Department of Education, children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities.

Clare and Tarin are some of the young people looking to change that.

The girls are currently seniors at Davis Senior High School and recently joined other students throughout Northern California and Nevada to host awareness campaigns at their respective schools during R-word Week in March. The initiatives were part of the annual Spread the Word to End the Word movement around the country, educating the public about the negative effects of using the word “retard(ed)” and encouraging people to pledge to stop saying the word as a starting point toward creating more accepting communities for everyone.

Tarin and Clare, who started a Best Buddies club at Davis on their own at the beginning of the school year, organized a week full of activities around the R-word campaign to promote inclusion between students in special education and general education. Monday was a “Pledge Day’ that encouraged students to sign the Spread the Word to End the Word banner; on Tuesday, the girls developed an obstacle course to challenge general education students to maneuver around blindfolded, to simulate vision impairment, and to navigate in a wheelchair; Wednesday featured speakers from Best Buddies and Special Olympics; and the week culminated in a Unified Basketball game on Friday during the lunch period.

“We want students to understand that people with disabilities are no different than anyone else,” explained Clare. “They enjoy doing the same things – playing basketball, watching sports, going to movies with their friends. It’s important to get that message out there by having these social events where students can come to watch, interact and learn.”

The Statewide Taskforce on Education recently reported that less than 30 percent of students indicate that they would be comfortable even speaking to a classmate with an intellectual disability. Tarin believes that the issue can be remedied through education and simply getting students with special needs to be a visible and comfortable part of the campus.

“Depending on the way you grow up, a lot of people aren’t really educated about [special needs] and don’t know what’s different and how to react,” she said. “With the R-word, people may not really realize what they’re saying and the impact it can have when they use it. That’s a major part of this campaign.”

Along with the group at Davis, R-word awareness campaigns, activities and Unified Basketball games were held at Rocklin High School (in conjunction with Whitney High School), Reed High School, Desert Oasis High School, Crocker Middle School, Givens Elementary School, Dondero Elementary School, Harmon Elementary School and others during the week.

Clare explained that, while there are some obstacles to getting the interest of all students, the overall response has been positive.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our school and a good number of students came out to the Unified Basketball game,” she said. “A lot of people signed the banner, which was nice to see. We saw that some students have never really thought about the R-word being hurtful until this week.”

Inclusion and respect start at an early age. And while Clare and Tarin will soon graduate and move on to the next chapters in their lives, they hope that the momentum that they and Special Olympics put into place will continue for future students at the school.

Davis will host a Unified Track event on Wednesday, March 15, taking advantage of the school’s roughly 230 track athletes to build more relationships and awareness for students with intellectual disabilities on campus.
Stay up-to-date on the latest events and achievements in local schools by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More information on Unified Sports, the Schools Partnership Program and the R-word campaign is available at www.schoolspartnershipprogram.org and www.schoolspartnershipprogramnevada.org.

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Compete With Special Olympics at School and in Your Community

Here at OurUnifiedSchools.com, we routinely celebrate the fact that Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada offers sports in more than 300 K-12 public schools during the school day. It’s pretty great that more than 9,846 special education student-athletes have Special Olympics in their classroom with the support of 33,444 general education peers.

But did you know…

Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada provides athletic opportunities to 22,052 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. These Special Olympics athletes train and compete all year round in what is known as the community sports program. These Special Olympics athletes practice and compete on evening and weekends with the guidance of volunteer coaches.

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There is NO COST for athletes to participate. Special Olympics offers 11 sports in Northern California and eight in Nevada, and all athletes compete at no cost to them or their families. Children with intellectual disabilities can join Special Olympics starting at age eight and compete for as long as they like! Many of our Special Olympics athletes compete for the majority of their lives.

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Student-athletes who participate in the Schools Partnership Program are also eligible to train and compete on evenings and weekends in Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada’s community program.

18776239022_0581d458e6_oInterested in volunteering? Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada is always looking for great volunteers to serve as head coaches, assistant coaches or volunteers at competitions! See below for important volunteer links.

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Northern California Info & Key Links:

Northern California sports offered: aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, floor hockey, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, volleyball | Click here for more sports information

Northern California counties active: 47 Northern California counties from the Oregon border to Monterey, Kings and Tulare counties | Click here to find your county

Get involved in Northern California: Become an Athlete | Athlete FAQs | Family FAQs | Become a Volunteer | Become a Coach | Training & Competition Calendar

Nevada Info & Key Links:

Nevada sports offered: aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, soccer, softball track & field | Click here for more sports information

Nevada counties active: 10 Nevada counties including Clark County and South Lake Tahoe | Click here to find your county

Get involved in Nevada: Become an Athlete | Athlete FAQs | Family FAQs | Become a Volunteer | Become a Coach | Training & Competition Calendar

Hope to see you at a practice and competition soon!

The West Goes to Washington

Editor’s note: Today we’ve got a guest post from one of our Schools Partnership Program staffers – Victoria!

Hi all! Last week, I joined Special Olympics athletes, parents, staff and supporters from all over the country as we converged on Washington, D.C., to rock the Hill at Special Olympics’ 11th annual Capitol Hill Day. Three athletes from Northern California and Nevada, their parents and I met with 17 members of Congress and their staffers to educate on the life-changing power of Special Olympics and advocate for continued federal support.

The festivities started with a dinner reception at the hotel the evening preceding Capitol Hill Day. Northern California athlete Lindsay concluded the night by leading the group of 200+ supporters in the Special Olympics Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

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The energy from dinner carried over to the next morning, when we made our way to Capitol Hill to begin our full day of meetings. With credentials and medals proudly displayed and informational folders in hand, the athletes took the lead by showing and telling members of Congress what Special Olympics means to them. The athletes, the parents and I all attested to the strength of programs such as Project UNIFY and Healthy Athletes, which partially rely on federal funding to continue.

A meeting highlight for the Northern California group included catching a glimpse of a prominently displayed photo in Representative Mike Honda’s office. The photo features athletes Lindsay and Stephanie with Representative Honda – and sits alongside one of Stephanie’s Special Olympics medals.

The excitement continued in the US Capitol Building for the team from Nevada, with whom I spent most of the day. One of our meetings was with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. During the time in Senator Reid’s office, athlete Hannah spoke about the positive change she has seen in herself – both socially and academically – since becoming a Special Olympics athlete.

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Senator Reid also learned that he is an alumnus of the same high school Hannah currently attends!

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Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver took time out of his incredibly busy day to join us for our meeting with Senator Reid.

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Isn’t the view from Senator Reid’s office beautiful?

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The day on the Hill culminated in a reception in one of the Senate buildings, where we mingled with groups from other states to gain insight into how the day went for other state programs. Everything concluded with a delicious dinner in Washington.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to the athletes and parents on the Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada Capitol Hill Day team! You all sure lived up to your promise to rock the Hill!

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2013 Was Our Favorite

To say that 2013 was an exceptional year for Special Olympics Northern California’s Schools Partnership Program seems to be selling it short. We had unparalleled growth across the board – in our student-athletes, general education volunteers and school districts as we welcomed Mission Valley Special Education Local Plan Area. And there were so many great stories that we got to witness! In honor of 2013, we took a look back at our (first!) year of Our Unified Schools!

Click the photo to link to the blog post!

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  1. Spotlight on Irvington High School
  2. Special and General Education Bond at Unified Soccer Tournament
  3. This Wordless Wednesday post
  4. How Do You Feel When You Hear the R-Word?
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  6. Find Your Photos – Part Two
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  8. Junior High Chatter
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Happy Holidays From Our Unified Schools!

On this winter’s day, we at OurUnifiedSchools.com and Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada would like to give some heartfelt thanks to…

The 7,100 student-athletes who inspire everyone with their talent and drive

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The 19,000 general education students who prove that everyone is worthy of respect and acceptance

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The special education teachers who make a difference in the lives of their students every single day

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The parents, siblings and family members of special education student-athletes who are tireless cheerleaders

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The school administrators who make it possible to have Special Olympics in the schools

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The sponsors whose financial gifts change the lives of special education and general education students across Northern California and Nevada

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The law enforcement officers who champion our athletes with their encouragement and fundraising

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The fans, volunteers and supporters of Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada who make our student-athletes feel like rock stars

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May this holiday season and 2014 bring all of our Special Olympics family joy, peace and happiness! Thank you for all that you do! 

You can give the life-changing gift of sports to our special education student-athletes. Every online gift made through Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the generous Special Olympics Northern California & Nevada Board of Directors.

Your $50 gift + $50 matching gift = 1 special education classroom sport season

Every dollar helps! Give today by clicking here!