2017 Special Olympics Global Unified Youth Exchange

The following post was written by Kaitlyn Smith, Youth Development Senior Manager and former Young Athletes Manager at Special Olympics.

From December 2nd — December 9th, an inclusive group of ten youth leaders and four adult mentors from Special Olympics North Carolina traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, where they were paired with youth leaders and educators from Special Olympics China. The delegation united to represent the Unified Generation of Special Olympics for the 2017 Global Unified Youth Exchange.


Members of the Global Unified Youth Exchange

While in China, the Global Unified Youth Exchange participants traveled to Unified Schools, developed solutions to the barriers countries face with inclusion, and collaborated on project plans that they will be implementing to promote inclusion in their schools and communities in 2018. Participants gained a deeper understanding of Special Olympics programming in China through discussions with local Unified Schools, Special Olympics China supporters, and athlete leaders across the country.


Through the unification of Special Olympics leaders from two diverse countries, a commitment to social justice and ongoing collaborative work was cultivated. Through a shared understanding of the importance of advocacy and the power of young people, a network of global youth leaders and educators emerged through the experience and will continue to drive the inclusive work of Special Olympics in China, North Carolina, and the world.



The 2017 Global Unified Youth Exchange concluded with participants presenting their experience and plans for future engagement during the Special Olympics East Asia Unified Schools Leadership Forum. Although the experience in China came to an end, this is just the beginning for the participants of the Global Unified Youth Exchange. As a result of the experience, each youth leader will be taking the new skills, knowledge and tools gained from the experience in China to further enhance and develop the project they will be implementing in 2018. Each project is focused on health, Unified Sports, or increasing school involvement — all of which will contribute to the overall expansion and awareness of the Unified Movement. The lasting impact of the projects will be a legacy of the 2017 Global Unified Youth Exchange participants. They are the pioneers of the inclusion revolution — and their journey begins now.


Summary video created by Special Olympics North Carolina youth leader, Alyssa.

For more information on the experience in China, check out the daily participant blog posts:


Day 1 Blog — Inclusive Youth Leaders Head to China

Inclusive Youth Leaders Head to China!

Day 2 Blog — Our Journey Begins with Special Olympics China

Our Journey Begins with Special Olympics China!

Day 3 Blog — Our Adventure Continues to a New City!

Our Adventure Continues to a New City!

Day 4 Blog — The Global Unified Youth Exchange is in Shanghai

The Global Unified Youth Exchange is in Shanghai!

Day 5 Blog — Anyone Can Be a Leader

Anyone Can Be A Leader!

Day 6 Blog  A Final Day of Learning

A Final Day of Learning!

Day 7 Blog — Opening Hearts and Minds to An Inclusive Society

Opening Hearts & Minds to An Inclusive Society

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