Arizona Department of Education awards $1.7 Million to support students with disabilities - AZEdNews
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Arizona Department of Education awards $1.7 Million to support students with disabilities

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  • Jimmy Arwood   |   Arizona Department of Education

Sebastian Ekstrand, Center, And Cooper Jones, Right, Play Together On The Flag Football Team At Higley High School As Part Of Their Unified Sports Program. Photo Courtesy Higley Unified School District.

The Arizona Department of Education announced dedicating funding directly to organizations serving students with disabilities. A combined $1.7 million was awarded to Special Olympics Arizona and Arizona Autism United.

“Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure every child has opportunities to grow and thrive,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, who is a former speech-language pathologist.

“My work with students with disabilities has shown me that we have much more work to do as a state to support their needs. I’m proud to announce support for these two organizations that provide critical services to Arizona’s students and communities,” Supt. Hoffman said.

The funding will support:

• Special Olympics Arizona will receive $1.4 million to expand its Unified Champion Schools program. Unified Champion Schools is a strategy to activate youth, engage educators, and promote acceptance and inclusion in school communities.  

• Arizona Autism United will receive $300,000 to expand its speech and language therapy services for children with developmental disabilities throughout Maricopa County. 

“For many years students with intellectual disabilities have been segregated from their typical peers, causing social isolation, fear, and loneliness. Unfortunately, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue, but thanks to the grant provided by the Arizona Department of Education, Special Olympics AZ will be able to bring back and strengthen programs, enhancing and expanding inclusive programming in schools across Arizona,” said Jamie Heckerman, president and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona.

“We know that those living with developmental disabilities need all the support they can get to be successful,” said Paulina Tiffany, development director of Arizona Autism United. “This grant will allow us to hire additional staff to reach more Arizona children with in-home and in-clinic speech and language therapy to strengthen their overall development and foster academic success.”

These projects are funded with dollars from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and are part of Arizona’s ARP School and Community Grantees. All funded projects share the goal of supporting schools, students, educators and families as they recover from the effects of the pandemic.