The new relationship will focus on providing a more inclusive environment across BPS schools and programs. As a result, participating schools will implement customized Unified Champion School programs, which offer more opportunities for students with and without disabilities a chance to play, learn, and lead together.
MARLBOROUGH, MASS - On February 22, 2022, the Boston Public School (BPS) district and Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) signed a first-of-its-kind partnership agreement. The partnership agreement, formally known as a Memorandum of Understanding, details the commitments from both parties to bolster special education services with a focus on inclusion.
Boston Public Schools will gain access to Special Olympics resources and, after meeting certain benchmarks, will earn the nationally recognized Unified Champion School® designation. SOMA has a goal to increase participating schools' capacity to be more inclusive by providing grant funding, volunteer placement, and technical support. As a result, participating schools will implement their customized Unified Champion School program, which offers more opportunities for students with and without disabilities a chance to play, learn, and lead together.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Brenda Cassellius shared, ''Partnering with organizations like the Special Olympics Massachusetts supports Boston Public Schools to continue to deliver on its mission to ensure that all students have a first-class education with a focus on equity and inclusivity. I am thrilled about this partnership and the opportunities it will provide our special education students and their families. This program will give students the opportunity to not only participate in sporting events, but will also allow them to showcase their leadership within their own school communities by teaching others about the power of inclusion."
''We are beyond excited to enter this partnership with Boston Public Schools. We have, for years, worked with individual schools to provide field-day-style events," added Special Olympics Massachusetts President & CEO, Mary Beth McMahon, ''but this is an opportunity to bring inclusive sports programming into the classroom, gym, and cafeteria on a daily basis, throughout the school year. We have seen incredible results at Unified Champion Schools across Massachusetts and cannot wait to see the impact of working with the largest school district in the commonwealth."
Unified Champion Schools use three focus areas to make their school environments and broader communities more inclusive:
- Unified Sports - athletes with and without disabilities compete alongside one-another on the same playing field.
- Inclusive Youth Leadership - students with and without disabilities work together to lead their school to be more welcoming to people of all backgrounds and abilities.
- Whole School Engagement - events or initiatives that rally students, faculty and staff to commit to being more inclusive.
In addition to the work that will take place at the participating BPS schools, the partnership will also generate an annual signature event for BPS students, the first of which will be the 'Unified Sports Experience', to be held on June 9, 2022 at the Harvard University Athletic Complex.
The inaugural Unified Sports Experience in Boston is a top priority for Special Olympics Massachusetts. The purpose of this event is to create an opportunity for BPS students with and without disabilities to play together and showcase the power of inclusion. The event will be held at Harvard University Athletic Complex where participants will compete at state-of-the-art athletic facilities and participate in a series of their favorite sports and activities. This non-competitive event will prioritize activities that promote sport skill development, fun, and inclusion.
- Opening Ceremony designed to celebrate every participant
- Physical activity station rotations
- Expecting to host up to 500 students with and without disabilities
- All grade levels are welcome (k-8, are being highly encouraged)
About Boston Public Schools:
As the birthplace of public education in this nation, the Boston Public Schools is committed to transforming the lives of all children through exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative, welcoming schools. We partner with the community, families, and students to develop in every learner the knowledge, skill, and character to excel in college, career, and life.
About Special Olympics Massachusetts:Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities across the state with sporting competitions throughout the year. Using sports as the catalyst, the Special Olympics movement promotes inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in all areas of life. We're investing in the idea that everyone belongs and invite all of Massachusetts to join us and experience inclusion. http://www.specialolympicsma.org.