Special Olympics South Carolina Awards Innovation Grants to Schools
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Special Olympics South Carolina (SOSC) provides funding support for participating Unified Champion Schools (UCS) through Innovation Projects grant funds. This funding is a portion of the UCS funds allotted to state programs from the Department of Education. Funds are awarded to participating schools through a competitive application process. Schools must demonstrate that their proposed Innovation Projects are above and beyond the “typical” Unified Champion School initiatives which include:
- Creating inclusive sports and health programs at the school,
- Incorporating inclusive youth leadership in the school’s UCS program, and
- Engagement of the whole school in their UCS program.
Innovation Projects must be sustainable and capacity-building. They must incorporate Special Olympics’ values, principles, and practices. The purpose of an Innovation Project is to create a culture of inclusion which takes the unified movement to a new level at their school.
SOSC has awarded $28,500 in Innovation Project funds for the 2020-2021 school year to a total of 25 South Carolina Unified Champion Schools. School projects have included Inclusive libraries, sensory paths and gardens and disc golf courses. Schools can use the funds for special events as well – creating “Junior Olympic Day” to celebrate the importance of participating in sports and team competitions.
Phillip Simmons Middle School in Wando, SC used their funds to purchase a tandem bike. Tara Girch, Special Education teacher, had a custom-built tandem bike created for her athletes and Unified partners. The unique feature about their bike was that the riders are seated side-by-side, which allows the athlete and Unified partner to truly work together as a team.
Saxe Gotha Elementary School in Lexington, SC, chose to create an “Equity Garden” with their Innovation Project funds. Their “Equity Garden” provides an illustration of the importance of recognizing the unique needs of students with intellectual disabilities. Students will manage the garden based on equality and equity. On the equality side, plants will get equal access to light, fertilizer and water each week. On the equity side, plants will be given just the right amount of fertilizer, sunlight, and water they need to grow. At the end of the year, the garden will be a powerful visual that demonstrates the importance of educating and nurturing in accordance with an individual’s unique needs.
Innovation Projects are an important component of the Unified Champion Schools program. They represent a partnership with SOSC which is dedicated to furthering our mission of acceptance and inclusion. These funds have the potential to impact a total of 19,320 students within their respective schools, but more importantly, they will serve to shape a generation of children who will encourage and embrace inclusion.