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Special Olympics New Mexico has announced that Mayfield High School (MHS) has been named by ESPN as one of the top five schools in the nation for its inclusive school atmosphere and unified sports. Mayfield was selected from 155 Banner School Recipients across the country this year. MHS is both the first high school in Las Cruces to become a banner recipient and the first school in New Mexico to be named in the top five.
A Special Olympics Unified Champion School Banner Recipient demonstrates commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 standards of excellence receives national banner recognition.
A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.
The primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole-School Engagement. Banner Unified Champion Schools must also demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future. In total, there are 518 banner schools across the country, eight of which are in New Mexico, and more than 7,600 schools participating in the program nationwide, 37 of which are in New Mexico.
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. With sports as the foundation, the three-component model offers a combination of effective activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.
This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, providing opportunities that lead to change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all learners.
Last year, Mayfield hosted a unified kickball game during which athletes from the Lady Trojans soccer team played alongside students with disabilities. Students from other clubs and organizations helped with opening ceremonies, acting as cheerleaders and fans in the stands.
For more information on Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools and how to get your school involved, contact Rebecca Whitlock at Rebecca@sonm.org