Return to Headlines


Special Olympics Massachusetts to Invest $450K in Expanding Opportunities for Students With and Without Disabilities to Play, Learn, and Lead Together

BOSTON Wednesday, March 1, 2023 – Today, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Mary Skipper, and Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA)  President & CEO Mary Beth McMahon together celebrated BPS’ commitment to offering inclusive and equitable education and programming to students across the district. The cornerstone of the celebration is BPS' and SOMA's first-of-its-kind $450K partnership, which focuses on bolstering special education services.

The event was held at Brighton High School and featured Brighton High senior Kevin Woods, sophomore Simone Johnson and freshman Torrine Oliver participating in a ceremonial jump ball to tip off a Brighton High School basketball game.

"We're building an education system that wraps around every young person holistically in and out of the classroom," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "This partnership will create more opportunities for our young people to engage in inclusive sports programming and will strengthen resources across our system. I'm thrilled to partner with Special Olympics Massachusetts to remove barriers for our students with disabilities and build on our District-wide inclusion efforts."

Through the partnership, Boston Public Schools will gain access to Special Olympics resources and, after meeting certain benchmarks, will earn the nationally recognized Unified Champion School® designation. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a program for Pre-K through university schools that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments. 

"Our commitment to inclusion for our students of all abilities is unwavering and expanding," said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. "This partnership with Special Olympics Massachusetts is a wonderful example of what is possible when we come together to ensure every student feels welcome, respected, and included. As we continue to make new partnerships and improve how we deliver for our students and families, it is initiatives such as this one that will lead us forward into a new era, in which inclusion is far more than a box to check, but a way of life for everyone at BPS."

SOMA has a goal to increase participating schools' capacity to be more inclusive by providing $450K in grant funding, volunteer placement, and technical support over the three years. As a result, participating schools will implement their customized Unified Champion School program, which offers more opportunities for students with and without disabilities to play, learn, and lead together. 

"This partnership presents an incredible opportunity to bring inclusive sports to Boston Public Schools," shared Special Olympics Massachusetts President & CEO, Mary Beth McMahon. "The Unified Champion Schools model has been positively impacting students across Massachusetts since its inception. We are excited to see how the students, faculty and staff here in Boston implement Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership and whole school engagement. Whether a student has a disability or not, they should be fully included members of their community and that idea is exactly what this partnership is highlighting."

Unified Champion Schools use three focus areas to make their school environments and broader communities more inclusive: 

  • Unified Sports – athletes with and without disabilities compete alongside one-another on the same playing field. 

  • Inclusive Youth Leadership – students with and without disabilities work together to lead their school to be more welcoming to people of all backgrounds and abilities. 

  • Whole School Engagement – events or initiatives that rally students, faculty and staff to commit to being more inclusive. 

"The more students with and without disabilities play side-by-side, the more likely learning together in the classroom becomes second-nature," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. "We thank Special Olympics Massachusetts for bolstering our ability to center inclusion in our efforts to transform our schools into places where young people of all abilities grow together into leaders of our City."

There are currently 22 Unified Champion Schools® in the district. These schools provide programming in Unified Sports, whole-school engagement, and inclusive youth leadership opportunities for students with and without disabilities. This announcement comes months after BPS penned a historic agreement with the Boston Teachers Union in 2022 to expand inclusion programming throughout BPS.