La Quinta High School to Receive National Recognition from Special Olympics for Achievements with Inclusion

LQ Unified Basketball Team

During a special ceremony on Friday, December 1, La Quinta High School was presented with a national banner as a Special Olympics Unified Champion School® and named an ESPN Honor School for its successful initiatives to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without intellectual disabilities. La Quinta was one of only three schools in California to receive the recognition this year. The national banner unveiling occurred during a special ceremony filled with cheering students and concluded with a Unified basketball game between La Quinta and  Ocean View High School. La Quinta’s Unified Cheer Team showcased tremendous school spirit and filled the gymnasium with positive energy.

La Quinta High School received this distinguished status as a result of meeting 10 national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy, and respect. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The primary activities within these standards include Special Olympics Unified Sports® where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement.

“We are incredibly proud of La Quinta High School for fostering a climate of acceptance and support for students of all ability levels,” said Board of Education Trustee Bob Harden. “Our Adapted P.E. staff really have a heart for Unified programs that help equip our next generation of leaders with empathy and respect which are critical traits for creating a stronger community.”

Unified Champion Schools is a strategy 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: Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement. As many as 19.5 million young people are taking part in inclusive experiences through Special Olympics.

GGUSD has five high schools, two intermediate schools, six elementary schools and three preschools participating in Unified Champion Schools programming.  In total, 100 schools are currently participating in Unified Champion Schools programming in Southern California, as part of 8,300 schools across the country engaged in the program. Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.