Champlain Valley Union High School is one of only 155 schools in the country, and the only in the state of Vermont, named a Special Olympics Vermont Unified Champion School in 2020.

CVU is receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect in sports and activities.

The school will be presented with a banner to hang in the building and be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status.

CVU is the third school in Vermont to achieve this milestone, joining Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, and Rutland High School.

“We are so proud of the entire CVU community for being named a Special Olympics National Unified Champion Banner School,” said Champlain Valley Union High School Principal Adam Bunting. “We strive to be a leader in inclusion and equity for all, and this recognition shows that we are setting a positive example for schools across the entire country.”

Since launching their Special Olympics inclusive school activities in 1999, CVU has consistently been a bright light in the Unified Champion School landscape in Vermont. They offer Unified Basketball, Bocce, Bowling and Snowshoe, with at least 85 students participating each year.

In 2016, CVU won the Vermont Principal Association’s Interscholastic Unified Basketball State Championship, and then travelled to Seattle for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, bringing home a gold medal.

The CVU Redhawks have participated in the Cool Schools Penguin Plunge for well over a decade, bringing together hundreds of students each year through this whole-school engagement activity to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Vermont.

CVU developed an inclusive, student-led club, “CVUnified,” that was instrumental in achieving national banner status, contributing collaboratively to the application process.

“Last year, a proud father wrote to tell me of his son’s experience while a student at CVU. As an 8th grader, he got involved with the Penguin Plunge, and in high school, evolved into a student leader while playing on and coaching one of the unified sports teams,” said Missy Siner Shea, Special Olympics Vermont President and CEO. “His dad credits Special Olympics Vermont and CVU’s Unified Champion School efforts with helping his son find his moral center. This work we do with schools isn’t just about helping students with disabilities.”

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.

National banner schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

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