SOWI Awarded Unified Champion City Schools Grant

June 1, 2022 Featured, Press

Special Olympics Wisconsin was awarded a $10,000 grant from Bader Philanthropies, Inc. to support its Unified Champion City Schools (UCCS) program, the organization announced late this spring.

SOWI selected Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) as the target district for this UCCS grant. Milwaukee harbors not only the largest school district in Wisconsin and 45th largest public school district in the nation—it also hosts one of SOWI’s largest local agencies and Young Athlete Programs in the state. MPS is committed to accelerating student achievement, building positive relationships between youth and adults, and cultivating leadership at all levels.

“In choosing Milwaukee Public Schools for this award, we hope to develop a transitional model of Unified Champion Schools (UCS) for other districts,” SOWI Director of Unified Programs Erin Muhlenkamp said. “To point to a district that had tremendous growth due to an increased focus of staff and financial resources would motivate other districts to increase their participation. The selection of the greater Milwaukee area would also extend the network of staff aware of UCS, who then become ambassadors to their colleagues and friends across the state.”

Washington High School in Milwaukee hosted the inaugural Ralph Davis Invitational this March, the first-ever unified basketball tournament of its kind where special education athletes compete alongside their peers. The sole mission of the event is to promote inclusion and a high level of competition.

“Success in MPS would spearhead the charge to have Unified Sports sanctioned by our state’s high school sports association,” Unified Champion Schools Manager Princess Brinkley said. “Dedicated funding for students both with and without intellectual disabilities would go especially far in this district that has historically been doing more with less. Opportunities extended by this initiative would have a lasting impact for students, staff and the community.”

Funding from this grant will help Special Olympics Wisconsin provide family outreach materials, program equipment, nutritional snacks, art supplies, Spread the Word Inclusion materials, and other financial support for school personnel implementing UCCS programs in their respective buildings. Centered around curriculum of SOWI’s Young Athletes Program—a sport and play program for children ages 2-10—and SOfit Program that educates specific principles of good health and wellness, these programs are both Unified in design for people with and without intellectual disabilities.

“This grant is truly vital to our Unified Champion Schools programming at the school level—it’s so important to continue spreading inclusion in the diverse schools and communities of Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Recreation Supervisor for Adaptive Athletics Lyndsay Linsmeier said. “We are so honored to have received funding from an impressive organization like Bader Philanthropies, whose presence in southeastern Wisconsin is integral to many organizations and has shown a shared support of youth development and social equality much like MPS.”

For the 2021-22 school year, SOWI partnered with 10 schools in the district to offer funding and resources to help support their programing—lasting and meaningful programming the SOWI Unified Programming team hopes to continue building through these partnerships and relationships.

Learn more about how your school can join the Unified Champion Schools movement!

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