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Special Olympics Minnesota Launches Project UNIFY to Energize Youth

Special Olympics Minnesota receives $20,000 to support local programs as part of a nationwide Special Olympics initiative

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special Olympics Minnesota recently received $20,000 in funding to support Project UNIFY as part of Special Olympics International's new national program. Project UNIFY is an initiative to activate young people across the United States in an effort to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change - fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Minnesota believes that through sports, young people can make a difference in friendships, schools and communities.

In 2009, Special Olympics Minnesota will host a Project UNIFY "Challenges Through Choice" course to be offered to 16 students with intellectual disabilities and 16 students without intellectual disabilities. The goal is to UNIFY these students in an inclusive manner and foster positive lifelong skills, attitudes and diverse relationships. Special Olympics Minnesota will partner with eight Twin Cities metro-area high schools (Armstrong, Cooper, Edina, Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and Wayzata) to recruit for "Challenges Through Choice," which will be held in a series of sessions Jan. 23, Feb. 20, March 20, April 24 and two classes in May at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn. from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Project UNIFY leadership activities will help develop the next generation of leaders and advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The project was made possible by $4.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education pursuant to fiscal 2008 appropriations under the authority of HR5131, "The Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act," and the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act," which Special Olympics International received in June 2008.

To kick off Project UNIFY, 17 young people from across the country, aged 14-20, with and without intellectual disabilities, assembled in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18-20, 2008 for the first meeting of Project UNIFY's Youth Advisory Committee. The committee met during the Department of Education's 2008 Global Summit on Education, the theme of which was "Inclusive Practices for Students with Disabilities."

Special Olympics Minnesota offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round sports training and competition. Through Special Olympics' athletic, health and leadership programs, people with intellectual disabilities transform themselves, their communities and the world.

SOURCE Special Olympics Minnesota
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