Through an expanded partnership between the New York City public schools and Special Olympics New York, more than 1,700 students will now be able to participate in a variety of sports, such as track & field, volleyball, and basketball.
Another 200 students with and without disabilities will participate in a baseball league and 200 middle school students with and without disabilities will participate in a bocce league, according to an announcement made by Mayor Eric Adams, Schools Chancellor David C. Banks and Special Olympics NY President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman on Monday.
“This administration is committed to breaking down barriers to becoming a healthier city, and playing sports is often how young people start building healthy habits,” said Adams. “Today, we are ‘Getting Stuff Done’ and achieving this goal for all students by allowing athletes who participate in the Special Olympics to enjoy new physical, mental, and social activities.”
Special Olympics New York has committed $50,000 in funding, alongside providing sports equipment, team uniforms and training for educators and coaches. The city will be committing an additional $300,000.
“School culture shifts when Special Olympics New York programming is embraced at this scale. Every student will feel welcome, valued and included; every student will have the opportunity to be a champion,” said Hengsterman. “I applaud Chancellor Banks and school leaders throughout the city for prioritizing the needs of students with disabilities and striving to be a top public schools model of inclusion. We look forward to helping make this unprecedented vision a reality for students and families.”
Research done by the Special Olympics shows that school programming reduces bullying, overturns negative stereotypes, and spurs healthy social interactions. Unified sports teams have also shown to help students with disabilities gain a better perception of school and increase attendance. Students with and without disabilities are able to increase positive social interactions as well.
“The opportunity to play on a sports team is a critical part of the full school experience, giving our students the chance to forge friendships, learn to support their teammates, and take on leadership roles,” said Banks. “This partnership with Special Olympics New York allows us to open the door for so many students who have been traditionally excluded from these experiences, while breaking down barriers between our students.”