Sports lover supports and recruits new schools for the Unified program — those with and without disabilities playing together.

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Mandy Schumacher

What do you do? I am a senior regional manager of Unified Schools at Special Olympics Washington. I work directly with staff and students in the Western Washington school districts. My main role is to support and recruit new schools to join our Unified movement — those with and without intellectual disabilities participating together on an equal playing field. We work on bringing Unified sports, clubs and school-wide activities to kindergarten–college students in Washington state.

How did you get started in that field? I have always had a passion for sports, and when I went to college I received my B.A. in recreation management. I volunteered with Special Olympics Washington, and through that, really found a love for the organization and the population we serve. It is an amazing thing when you can see our athletes having fun, succeeding in sports and thriving in their school environment with their peers.

What’s a typical day like? During the school year I have a lot of meetings with teachers and district employees to educate them on what Unified is and why it is so important to have at their schools. I also help with our youth summits that bring youth leaders from different schools together to talk about inclusion and acceptance. We also run sport tournaments, and we facilitate presentations and webinars. Every day is something different.

What’s the best part of the job? The best part of my job is seeing a school break down barriers of intolerance and begin to create an inclusive and accepting environment for all students. When you see students with and without intellectual disabilities playing on their schools’ Unified team, the disability is not the focus. They are all equal and have the opportunity to excel on a school team, (which) may not have been an option before.

What surprises people about what you do? Whenever I tell someone what I do, they are always really interested in learning more about it, since many people do not know what Unified is and what it really means. They always seem to find a lot of value in the work we do and the population we serve, so it is great when we can inform people about Unified who may have never heard of it before.

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