Through this partnership, more than 1,700 students with disabilities will now be able to participate in Special Olympics track & field, volleyball, and basketball during their school day. An additional 200 high school students with and without disabilities will participate in an afterschool unified basketball league, and 200 middle school students with and without disabilities will participate in a unified bocce league.
SONY has committed to giving $50,000 in funding, as well as supporting the training of educators and coaches as well as providing sports equipment and team uniforms. The City of New York is contributing an additional $300,000 to fund these initiatives.
“This administration is committed to breaking down barriers to becoming a healthier city, and playing sports is often how young people start building healthy habits,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Sports offer a fun and exciting path towards a healthier future, and with this partnership between New York City Public Schools and Special Olympics New York, more than 1,700 students living with disabilities will now be able to participate in the Special Olympics. Today, we are ‘Getting Stuff Done’ and achieving this goal for all students by allowing athletes who participate in the Special Olympics to enjoy new physical, mental, and social activities.”
“The opportunity to play on a sports team is a critical part of the full school experience, giving our students the chance to forge friendships, learn to support their teammates, and take on leadership roles,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “This partnership with Special Olympics NY allows us to open the door for so many students who have been traditionally excluded from these experiences, while breaking down barriers between our students.”
“Today, the largest school district in the country has a message for schools, students and families throughout New York City – our schools choose to include,” said Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver. “This expanded partnership between New York City Public Schools and Special Olympics New York is a defining moment not only for New York but for communities across the country and around the world. This is the level of commitment we hope all schools will strive for, one that ensures every student with an intellectual disability gains access to the inclusive, life-changing programs that Special Olympics has to offer.”
“School culture shifts when Special Olympics New York programming is embraced at this scale. Every student will feel welcome, valued and included; every student will have the opportunity to be a champion,” said Special Olympics NY President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “I applaud Chancellor Banks and school leaders throughout the city for prioritizing the needs of students with disabilities and striving to be a top public schools model of inclusion. We look forward to helping make this unprecedented vision a reality for students and families.”
Research conducted by Special Olympics shows that in-school programming has been proven to reduce bullying, overturn negative stereotypes, and spur healthy social interactions. For students with disabilities, unified sports teams also help to improve students’ perceptions of school and social inclusion and increase attendance. Unified teams are shown to increase positive social interactions among students with and without disabilities, shifting the school’s culture to a more inclusive environment for all students.
Special Olympics programming in and out of school changes lives for people with intellectual disabilities, their families and their communities. Athletes who participate in Special Olympics enjoy a higher quality of life and increased self-confidence as a result of the physical, mental and social activity that becomes part of their daily routine.