Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team and playing field. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
Last month, Special Olympics Florida held its second Youth Summit at the University of South Florida. The Youth Summit provides Special Olympics Florida athletes and Unified partners the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills, learn inclusionary tools, and have an overall fun weekend together.
The 2016 Youth Summit was comprised of 60 total participants from 13 different schools statewide. Special Olympics Florida is the first U.S. program to include elementary and middle school participation in a statewide Youth Summit.
Across the state, Special Olympics Florida partners with 106 schools in its Unified Sports programs, serving nearly 5,000 total participants. Earlier this year, Special Olympics surpassed its goal of registering 1 million Unified Sports participants globally, by registering 1.2 million participants in Special Olympics Unified Sports.
The 2016 Youth Summit was an immense success for promoting inclusion, developing mutual respect, and fostering friendship for students with and without intellectual disabilities. As the students go back to their schools and communities, they are energized and equipped to share what they learned with their friends and classmates. Here is just a sampling of the feedback from the event:
“I want to let you know what a great experience my athletes and partners had at the Youth Summit…They all had a great time, and several of them faced and conquered their fear of heights…It is truly making a difference in the lives of our athletes and partners.” – Sandy, Teacher
“Thank you for allowing me to bring two partners to the recent Youth Summit. Both of my girls enjoyed themselves and came away from the event with an enhanced appreciation for Special Olympics…[T]he ropes course gave my partners an opportunity to give of themselves to others. Thank you for arranging the event! I hope to have an opportunity to participate again next year!” – Barbi, Teacher
“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to attend the Youth Summit this year! I had a great time making new friends and learning more about Special Olympics…I was able to help many of the athletes conquer their fears and help them succeed in their goal one obstacle at a time.” – Abigail, Student
“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go to the 2016 Special Olympics Youth Summit! I had so much fun with my new friend Cheyenne…Thank you so much for making all of this possible!” – Emily, Student