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Welcome, students, to a unique adventure! You are about to take a journey of discovery that can launch you into new friendships based on servant leadership, fitness, fun, and seeing others as deserving people just like you. So welcome to Meet in the Middle - enjoy!
In 2008 Special Olympics, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Education partnered to form Project UNIFY, an initiative encouraging typically developing and special needs students to develop greater understanding of and appreciation for each other. In Texas we implemented Project UNIFY as Meet in the Middle, and our target audience were middle school students, thus the name "Meet in the Middle" was born. Special Olympics Texas recruited middle schools throughout Texas to participate. In this first year that SOTX was awarded a grant, more than 30 schools participated in the program. Each school chose a project, and the diverse student groups partnered to work together. Students learned they were more alike than different, and their project work was posted on an SOTX website for schools across the state to review and admire. The schools' products were awesome, and the enthusiasm began to spread. The participating schools were awarded funds to hold a school-wide, year-end rally or forum to celebrate the group's successes and encourage others to get involved.
The journey continued with a second year of Meet in the Middle, during which more than fifty middle schools accepted the challenge to be the best Meet in the Middle school. Special Olympics Texas received increased grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, and the projects from participating students and schools became more elaborate and innovative as students continued to explore themes of diversity, acceptance, and understanding.
The program was more popular than ever and was funded even more generously for its third year. Additionally, because of the level of work and number of schools and students involved in and impacted by the program, Texas was selected as one of eight High Activation states. More than 100 schools in over 50 school districts participated, and a full-time Meet in the Middle Coordinator was hired to provide program support and information. Popularity grew to the point that elementary, middle, and high schools were all invited to participate. Students continued to earn motivational awards, facilitators received a stipend, and year-end rallies informed those not involved in the project of the importance of treating all classmates with dignity and respect. Additionally, the first state Youth Leadership Council was formed. Their primary project was to help develop and facilitate the first state Youth Leadership Summit in Austin in May 2011. Forty youth attended!
In Year Four, more than 125 schools from across Texas have joined the program. Texas was recognized as a High Activation state and once again funded at the maximum level. Schools continue to develop creative inclusive activities and projects and are working hard to Spread the Word. The Texas Association of Student Councils endorsed Meet in the Middle as a project for Student Councils and National Honor Societies, reinforcing student leadership as the cornerstone of successful programs. More and more schools are participating in Unified Sports at Recreational, Player Development, and Competitive levels, and the student body at participating campuses learn more about acceptance and awareness with each passing season.
As we prepare for our fifth year, we continue to emphasize the three core initiatives of Project UNIFY Meet in the Middle:
In our third year of High Activation, we will offer mini-grants to programs wishing to host special events or develop long-term projects, and we will launch our first Intercampus mentoring program. MiM is changing the lives of students all over Texas, and we want YOU to be part of it. Check out our Facebook page to see what's happening right now, and then talk to your teacher or sponsor. Visit our Registration page to get your campus signed up and ready for fall 2012.
YOU can be an advocate for positive change, greater understanding, and inclusive school cultures - while having fun and making new friends. Join Meet in the Middle!