UND Special Olympics College Club Receives National Recognition

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UND named National Banner Unified Champion School for the first time; ESPN ranks the program in the National Top 5

Flag football is one of the sports played by Special Olympics athletes and the UND Special Olympics College club. Photo courtesy of UND Special Olympics College.

GRAND FORKS, North Dakota – The UND Special Olympic College club has received national recognition from two important sources. First, UND was named the National Banner School, the first unified champion school in North Dakota to receive this honor.

And today, sports network ESPN named UND one of the top 5 national banner schools. It is the only higher education institution on the list.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, commitment, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School that receives National Banner recognition is a school that has demonstrated a 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.

Key activities in these standards include Special Olympics Unified Sports (in which students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership, and whole-school engagement. Banner Unified Champion schools must also be able to demonstrate that they are self-sufficient or have a plan in place to support operations.
The ESPN distinction is given to schools that go “above and beyond in their inclusive efforts,” according to Special Olympics North Dakota.

A floor hockey event was the occasion for this group portrait of UND Special Olympics College members and Special Olympics athletes. Photo courtesy of UND Special Olympics College.

A huge victory

The UND Special Olympics College Club has been active throughout the UND and Grand Forks community, participating in events such as Flag Football, Floor Hockey, Spread the Word to End the Word, Inclusion Week, Virtual College Champ Week and Moreover.

“This national recognition is a huge victory for the UND,” said Renee Bjorgassistant professor of Teaching and leadership and Special Olympics College Club Advisor for UND. “This represents the commitment of our athletes and coaches to unified sports and to the strongest message of inclusion.

“The award carries the message that the UND and the Greater Grand Forks community are places where everyone belongs. Individuals are valued for who they are, regardless of their athletic abilities, intellectual prowess, degrees or status. »

Nancy Hanson, president and CEO of Special Olympics North Dakota, agrees. “What a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics North Dakota with an achievement from the National Banner School,” said Hanson.

“The UND Special Olympics College Club is doing a great job of creating exciting new opportunities for engagement with our athletes. Their dedication and passion for movement really shines through.

Among other activities, the UND Special Olympics College club makes signs in support of Special Olympics athletes. Photo courtesy of UND Special Olympics College.

Inclusion and Excellence

A celebration and presentation of the national banner will take place on January 6 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena during the UND men’s hockey game against Lindenwood University.

According to Bjorg, “Our UND Special Olympics College club leaders – Anna Roaldson, Olivia Schoffstall, Claire Wagner, Kylie Swanson, Mason Gravett and Cole O’Neill – have a vision for a more inclusive world. They make a difference in the lives of Special Olympics athletes, their coaches and community members in Grand Forks and beyond.

“I’m so proud to be part of this dynamic group of world changers and can’t wait to see them leave their mark after graduating from UND. They are models of inclusion and excellence.

About Special Olympics College

Special Olympics College operates as an official on-campus club and connects students and people with developmental disabilities through sports to build friendships and help lead the Special Olympics social justice movement. Created by students for students, the network seeks membership from campuses that pursue the common goals of improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and building a more accepting world for all.

About Special Olympics North Dakota

Special Olympics North Dakota is a private, nonprofit organization that provides year-round health promotion, athletic training, and competition in 14 sports for children and adults with developmental disabilities. All activities are offered free of charge to participants and their families. More than 1,000 athletes and 2,500 volunteers participate across the state of North Dakota. For more information, visit specialolympicsnd.org.


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