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SOVT Partners with VPA to Engage Youth in Unified Sports

Special Olympics Vermont and the Vermont Principals’ Association have formalized their partnership to develop inclusive youth sports opportunities for all high school students across the state. Together, these organizations will leverage their expertise and resources to expand Unified Sports offerings and establish a model for building inclusive school communities.

Special Olympics Vermont is part of a global movement that works year round to foster acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities by using the power of sport to showcase their gifts and abilities. The Unified Sports program brings the power of the Special Olympics movement into schools. Using sports as the catalyst for change, students with and without intellectual disabilities compete together on the same teams, breaking down barriers, fostering tolerance, and building friendships.

“Unified Sports have had a tremendously positive impact on the culture of respect and the acceptance of differences in our school community,” says Dan Marlow, Athletic Director at BFA St. Albans. “I am proud of how BFA has embraced this concept and would encourage all schools to be part of this win-win situation!”

The Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) exists to coordinate the collective interests and needs of school leaders, with a goal of improving the educational opportunities for the youth of Vermont. Working with Special Olympics Vermont, the VPA is promoting the inclusion of equitable interscholastic opportunities for all students in Vermont high schools. Unified Sports offerings will be included in all VPA publications in a manner consistent with the information for all other VPA high school sports.

“Since Special Olympics was established in 1968, we’ve learned that the quickest path to understanding and acceptance is by connecting people with our athletes,” says Lisa DeNatale, President and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont. “Our new partnership with the VPA is an enormous step in that direction, both symbolically, and practically, and I’m so proud of the work being done to bring Unified Sports to all Vermont high school students.”

The VPA has formed a Unified Sports Committee comprised of seven Athletic Directors from Vermont Schools, Bob Johnson, the Associate Executive Director of the VPA, and Lisa DeNatale. Bob Johnson reported that “the VPA is truly looking forward to our partnership with Special Olympics Vermont, and to the integration of Unified Sports programs within VPA member schools,”

Coined “the Unified Generation,” by President and Mrs. Obama at a White House celebration of Special Olympics in July, the VPA and Special Olympics Vermont are proud to support a generation in which young people with and without intellectual disabilities create a future of respect and inclusion throughout their communities.

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