(LANSING, Mich.) – On Thursday, January 16, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address singled out Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI) for its Project UNIFY® program, which brings together students with and without intellectual disabilities and uses sports and education programs to change school culture while nurturing respect, dignity, advocacy and friendship.
Governor Snyder’s daughter Kelsey helped organize a similar program at her high school in Ann Arbor and has seen, first-hand, the positive impact that programs like Project UNIFY® can have on students.
Project UNIFY® debuted in Michigan in 2009 at five Detroit Public Schools as a vehicle to break down barriers and promote inclusion between students with and without intellectual disabilities. Today, there are 50 schools and more than 2,500 students across Michigan directly involved in Project UNIFY®.
Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO Lois Arnold was a guest of the Governor for the State of the State address and is excited for what the future holds for both Special Olympics Michigan and Project UNIFY®.
“We are very appreciative of Governor Snyder’s endorsement of Project UNIFY,” said Arnold. “The program has already transformed the lives of thousands of young people here in Michigan in the five short years since its inception, and we are very much looking forward to the coming years as Project UNIFY continues to grow and expand to more schools across the state.”
The Governor’s plan for improving the quality of life in our communities and for those with special needs includes developing a Pure Michigan marketing strategy to highlight opportunities for families living with disabilities, and having Michigan join the Spread the Word to End the Word ™ movement, which seeks to rid our vocabulary of derogatory terms regarding people with intellectual disabilities. During the 2012-2013 school year, more than 26,000 elementary, middle school and high school students attended 58 Special Olympics Project UNIFY® R-Word Rallies.
In June of 2012, Governor Snyder signed legislation allowing taxpayers to donate through their income tax return to Special Olympics Michigan. Taxpayers can easily donate a portion of their 2013 tax return to SOMI by asking for the Voluntary Contributions Schedule, downloading the form from Michigan.gov, or by looking for Form 4642 when filing electronically.