Waconia High School has recently been named a National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics North America. WHS is one of five schools in the state of Minnesota to achieve this honor for 2023.
To achieve National Banner recognition, a school has to demonstrate that it has an inclusive school climate and that it exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A school must also demonstrate commitment to inclusion by meeting the following 10 national standards of excellence:
- Unified Sports is offered in at least 2 seasons throughout the school year.
- Unified Sports participation occurs regularly over the course of each sport season or school term and includes competition.
- An adult coach for each sport who has received training on Special Olympics Unified Sports.
- Unified Sports is officially recognized by the school in a similar style as other athletics/activities.
- A Unified Club or student group offers leadership opportunities/training for students with and without intellectual disabilities.
- The inclusive club/group meets at least once per month throughout the school year.
- The inclusive club/group has an adult liaison and is officially recognized by the school in a similar style as other clubs/activities.
- At least two whole-school engagement activities are implemented per school year.
- Students with and without disabilities are involved with planning and leading the awareness activities.
- The school is currently self-sustainable or has a plan in place to sustain the three components into the future.
Waconia High School’s Unified Program has been in existence for eight years and includes Unified Bowling, Unified Basketball, Unified Soccer, and Unified Track & Field. The program has expanded to the classroom this school year to offer Unified Art, Unified Culinary Foods, and Unified Industrial Technology classes. There is also Unified programming in all six of the District’s schools. The Unified Program in Waconia is led by Waconia High School Teacher Kari Klein and is supported by numerous staff members across the District.
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is a program for schools Pre-K through university that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments, utilizing three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement.