Press release and photos courtesy of Special Olympics Illinois:
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has received the 2017 Special Olympics Illinois
’ Outstanding Organization of the Year Award. They were honored at a reception on June 9 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.
The Outstanding Organization Award recognizes a club, business or organization whose efforts have significantly improved the Special Olympics Illinois athletes’ experiences either locally or statewide.
The opportunity for boys and girls to represent their school and community as they participate in interscholastic activities is a privilege unique to young people in American education. Why? Because educators across the USA believe that participation in interscholastic activities offers students significant lifetime learning experiences that cannot be duplicated in any other instructional setting. Up until a few years ago it was difficult for a student with an intellectual disability to do just this. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) began working with Special Olympics Illinois
and changed that for many High School students.
Now, with the addition of cooperative Unified Sports and Unified Leadership Activities, students with intellectual disabilities are purposefully included. It started with the addition of Unified Bass Fishing. This was an opportunity to for students with and without disabilities to participate on a school team together.
IHSA and SOILL formalized a partnership to continue program development and increase participation for all individuals. With this partnership came a cooperative in Youth Leadership as well. Members of the IHSA Student Activities Commission (SAC) and the Special Olympics Illinois Youth Activation Committee (YAC) worked together to help develop the Unified Basketball program that began this year. This was an inclusive student led initiative that helped bring about this new sport. Regional and State competitions were held where athletes received the exact same awards as those that participate in other IHSA programs.
The IHSA continues to build upon the activities they have started and grow in the future offering a variety of options for programming. IHSA is a true outstanding partner organization to Special Olympics Illinois and should be recognized for their ever continuing efforts.