There is no doubt that Unified Champion Schools programming can have an immensely positive impact on a school’s culture. Students learn to choose kindness and create authentic, lifelong relationships. Hallways and cafeterias become a place where all students are included, regardless of ability. Angie Powell is one of the most influential Unified advocates in the Minneapolis Public School district. Thanks to Angie’s passion for the Unified Movement, 18 MPS schools and counting are implementing Unified programming, impacting hundreds of students across Minneapolis.
Angie’s passion for inclusive sports started when she was 12 years old in Wisconsin. “The sports I wanted to play weren’t always available to me,” Angie explained. “For example, we didn’t have a women’s softball team.” So, she played with the boys on the baseball team, where she learned helpful skills that she continues to use daily.
Angie carried that love for sports and understanding for inclusion to Minnesota, where she was introduced to the Minneapolis Public School district while studying education at the University of Minnesota. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education and Masters in Developmental Adapted Physical Education. Angie was a student teacher in the Minneapolis Public School district, and she found wonderful mentors and a robust, well-developed physical education department. After teaching in the district for over a decade, Angie became the DAPE Lead. DAPE stands for Developmental Adapted Physical Education, a specially designed physical education program for students with disabilities.
As DAPE Lead, Angie advocates for inclusion and accessibility in all sports and activities within the district. For example, Minneapolis Public Schools are working to get more tennis and swimming programs in schools, and Angie ensures that all students will be welcome to participate. “If you don’t bring up universal design of learning, the barriers in sports go right back up,” says Angie. In the world of inclusive sports, Unified fits right in.
Angie collaborates with Special Olympics Minnesota in her position as DAPE Lead to help the Unified Movement gain traction in Minneapolis Public Schools. Angie led the first Unified initiative in the Minneapolis Public School district: a Unified track and field event at the University of Minnesota in 2015. From there, Angie and the DAPE Department planned various track and field and bowling invitationals. Angie was one of the coaches for the first Unified sports team in the Minneapolis Public Schools district.
“Unified in Minneapolis Public Schools started with this small team, and it grew from there,” Angie recalls. “That’s really empowering to think about.”
Since that first event, Angie has continued to encourage Unified programming in the district, leading the charge for inclusive events in and beyond sports. “Angie Powell has been a champion for students with disabilities at Minneapolis Public Schools and continues to innovate ways for students to have access, independence and fun,” Rochelle Cox, Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent, says. “Angie goes the extra mile for students and ensures that our staff have the latest in professional development, curriculum and materials. It has been an honor to work alongside Angie. She is truly a champion!”
In just eight years, Unified programming in Minneapolis Public Schools has grown from two schools to 18 schools, which is nearly a third of all schools in the district. Both Angie and Rochelle want to see Unified programming in all schools in the district. Luckily, the district has Angie.
Santi Bromley, Special Olympics Minnesota Unified Champion City Schools Manager, agrees with the superintendent. “Angie’s passion is the key reason that all 18 schools and thousands of children have benefited from the amazing opportunities that full inclusion brings to their school and community,” Santi says.
“For me, Unified is about people of all identities, ages and abilities having the opportunity to be included on one team and play together as a community,” Angie says. “I’ve played so many sports myself, so I see what it can do for everyone.”
Angie has watched students grow up in Unified programming, seeing their growth firsthand. “We can be so separate in so many different things,” she reflects. “Unified is a way for all students of various backgrounds to play sports together. We have so many barriers in sports, and Unified takes down some of these barriers.”
“I hope to keep reaching people and serving the Minneapolis Public Schools. “I hope to keep reaching people and serving Minneapolis Public Schools. Finding ways to improve our communities— that’s what motivates me and gives me hope,” Angie says. “We love having people join Unified programming. If you want to volunteer at an event, be a coach, start a Unified club, just reach out. That’s where it starts!”
Angie is a champion of inclusion. Her dedication to the Unified movement has changed the culture of Minneapolis Public Schools to be more inclusive, positive and welcoming. She is a gamechanger!