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Champlain Valley Union to Receive National Recognition for Achievements in School-Wide Inclusion

Updated: Sep 11, 2020




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South Burlington, VT – September 2, 2020 – Special Olympics has announced that Hinesburg, Vermont’s Champlain Valley Union (CVU), a Special Olympics Vermont Unified Champion School, is receiving national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. CVU is receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect.

CVU is one of only 155 schools in the country, and the only in the state of Vermont, to receive this distinction in 2020. They will be presented with a banner to hang in their school and be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status. CVU is the third school in Vermont to achieve this milestone, joining Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, and Rutland High School in this accomplishment.

“We are so proud of the entire CVU community for being named a Special Olympics National Unified Champion Banner School,” said Champlain Valley Union High School Principal, Adam Bunting. “We strive to be a leader in inclusion and equity for all, and this recognition shows that we are setting a positive example for schools across the entire country.”

Since launching their Special Olympics inclusive school activities in 1999, CVU has consistently been a bright light in the Unified Champion School landscape in Vermont. They offer Unified Basketball, Bocce, Bowling and Snowshoe, with at least 85 students participating each year. In 2016, they won the VPA Interscholastic Unified Basketball State Championship, and then travelled to Seattle for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, bringing home a gold medal.

The CVU Redhawks have participated in the Cool Schools Penguin Plunge for well over a decade, bringing together hundreds of students each year through this whole-school engagement activity to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Vermont. CVU developed an inclusive, student-led club “CVUnified” that was instrumental in achieving National Banner status, contributing collaboratively to the application process.

“We know the power of the work done through our Unified Champion Schools, because we see it,” said Special Olympics Vermont President and CEO, Missy Siner Shea. “Last year, a proud father wrote to tell me of his son’s experience while a student at CVU. As an 8th grader, he got involved with the Penguin Plunge, and in high school, evolved into a student leader while playing on and coaching one of the unified sports teams. He then carried that volunteer spirit with him through college and beyond. His dad credits Special Olympics Vermont and CVU’s Unified Champion School efforts with helping his son find his moral center. This work we do with schools isn’t just about helping students with disabilities. It is about creating a culture of inclusion where those students can help others.”

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.

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About CVU

Champlain Valley School District’s mission is to develop citizens who: LEARN actively and collaboratively, THINK creatively and critically, LIVE responsibly and respectfully, CONTRIBUTE positively to their community, and PURSUE EXCELLENCE in their individual interests.

CVU is a comprehensive public high school, serving students in grades 9 through 12. The Champlain Valley School District serves the towns of Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and St. George. Located in the heart of the Champlain Valley, over 1,300 students are enrolled.

About Special Olympics Vermont

Special Olympics Vermont is part of a global movement that works year-round to foster the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities by using the power of sport to showcase their gifts and abilities. For more information, visit www.specialolympicsvermont.org.

About Unified Champion Schools

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 80 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Vermont, as part of more than 7,500 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 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:

  1. 94% of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.

  2. 98% of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.

  3. 92% credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing, and offensive language.

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

Contact: Kelsey Conway Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs Special Olympics Vermont 802-861-0275 kconway@vtso.org

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