Special Olympics New York President & CEO Makes the Case for Greater Inclusion in NYC Schools

Stacey Hengsterman Provides Testimony for NYC Council Committee on Education

New York City, NY – Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman today provided testimony for the NYC Council’s Committee on Education, making a compelling case for greater inclusion in New York City’s public schools.

The full testimony is available online here.

Drawing on her son’s experience, and that of 10,000 students with and without disabilities who play Unified statewide, Hengsterman testifies:

The culture in a Special Olympics Unified Champion School is what all schools should strive for: one where every student is welcome, empowered and included. While we are seeing the Unified movement grow quickly upstate, it has been a struggle to partner with schools in the city. In fact, of the more than 250 Unified Champion Schools we work with statewide, just 12 of them are within the NYC DOE.”

Additional excerpts include:

“Two percent of the students this committee aims to serve had access to Special Olympics programming in school last year. Yet 20% of DOE students have a disability, and for the most part, the other 80% never even see a student with a disability in the hallway, let alone interact with them.”

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Special Olympics New York offers programs for students of all ages. We offer training for educators and coaches. We provide equipment and uniforms. All with zero start-up costs to impact school budgets.”

I know this committee will agree that the country’s largest and most diverse school system – and its surrounding communities – should be doing much, much better.”

In a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, students with and without ID compete as teammates against other schools in their region. Participating students not only enjoy the physical, mental and social benefits of being on a school sports team; they lead inclusive activities that bring the entire student body together. Special Olympics New York also works with schools to offer less immersive sports experiences in school such as Unified Physical Education, inclusive health and wellness programs and youth leadership.

Special Olympics New York aims to more than double the number of athletes it serves in and out of schools throughout the state, with a primary focus in NYC where it says the need for inclusive programming is most urgent. The organization’s Strategic Plan: Growing an Inclusive New York, outlines an ambitious agenda to grow participation from 31,000 to 71,000 athletes by 2025.


About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 31,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.