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In Our Blog: What is a National Banner Unified Champion School?

Click Here for a List of Terms to Know

Unified Partner: Individuals without intellectual disabilities who train and compete as a teammate alongside Special Olympics athletes.

Unified Pair: A pair consisting of a Unified partner and a Special Olympics athlete.

Unified Champion Schools (UCS): Schools that demonstrate three pillars: Unified sports, whole school engagement and inclusive youth leadership. These schools demonstrate school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome in all activities, opportunities and functions.

National Banner Unified Champion School: Unified Champion Schools demonstrating commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence.

National Banner Presentation: Once a school is recognized as a national banner school, Special Olympics holds a ceremony presenting them with their banner.

In our previous blog post, we talked about Unified Champion Schools. The highest honor a Unified Champion School can receive is national banner recognition.

National Banner Unified Champion Schools are a prestigious group of schools that meet and exceed 10 national standards of excellence. The standards include the three components of a Unified Champion School: Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement. Banner schools must also demonstrate that they are sustainable and are able to meet the 10 standards year after year.

There are 518 banner schools across the country and 25 in Colorado. Different schools receive national banner recognition each year, and may reapply every four years.

Once they apply for banner status, schools are first reviewed by state staff (Special Olympics Colorado) and then by a national certifying body of key educational leaders.

Emi Carlson and Micah Compton are a Unified pair at Legend High School, a 2019 National Banner School. “It is a huge honor and we are so proud of our school,” say Emi and Micah. “For us, having a Unified program is so important because of the sense of inclusion it provides to our student body.”

Micah says the best part about attending a national banner school is all of the new friendships he has made through sports, classes and other extracurricular clubs.

When schools host their National Banner Presentation, the whole school is in attendance. Schools usually hold a pep rally so everyone can celebrate together. Once the school is presented with the banner, some will also hold a scrimmage with their Unified team.

Nia Andricopolous is a Unified partner at Grandview High School, a 2018 banner school. She explains that being a National Banner School means that her school is one step closer to making this world a more inclusive place and one step closer to everyone being accepted for who they are.

“It has inspired me to advocate that everyone should be treated for their capabilities, not judged for the things they cannot do,” says Nia. “Working with these athletes to make the world a more inclusive place has changed the environment of the school.”

Colorado’s 25 National Banner Schools

  • Arrowhead Elementary School
  • Black Forest Hills Elementary School
  • Brighton High School
  • Chaparral High School
  • Cherokee Trail High School
  • Colorado State University
  • Douglas County High School
  • Eaglecrest High School
  • Fort Collins High School
  • Grandview High School
  • Greeley Central High School
  • Greeley West High School
  • Legend High School
  • Mead High School
  • Mesa Middle School
  • Montrose High School
  • North Valley Middle School
  • Northridge High School
  • Ponderosa High School
  • Rangeview High School
  • Regis Jesuit High School
  • Smoky Hill High Schol
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • Valley High School
  • Wildcat Mountain Elementary School

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