Unique Partnership Provides College Experience to Developmentally Disabled

Feb. 22, 2017 - by Carol Best

Intellectually developmentally disabled young adults face the prospect of an unemployment rate that is twice the rate of the general population and few opportunities for higher education experiences after high school. A new partnership between MNU and Lakemary Center, a non-profit organization providing services to intellectually developmentally disabled individuals, started this year to prepare students for success in the workplace and provide them with the socialization and maturation that occurs in the college setting.

careers-and-more-4Classes in the program are taught by MNU faculty and Lakemary personnel. Courses include personal and professional development, problem solving and team building, strategy reading, strategy math and freshman seminar. Attending in a cohort group, they enjoy many of the opportunities that other MNU students have.

“This is an opportunity to attend college for individuals who would not otherwise have that chance,” says Dr. Neil Friesland, MNU professor of education. “These students have similar hopes and dreams as typically developing college students. They want the chance to make and keep friends, learn skills that will help them earn a living and work toward a special achievement.”

Six weeks into their semester, the students expressed several benefits they have already experienced.

careers-and-more-7“I thought I wasn’t ready for this, but I decided to go for it,” says Alex Schrag. “So far I’ve made new friends and I’m learning life skills.”

Chris Sloan says he likes the college experience. Michael Gordon added thoughts about the problem solving course. “We are learning about problem solving but also how to work with each other because we’re going to need that in the real world as coworkers.”

Rachel Dowis, Careers and More program coordinator, said much of what the students study bolsters skills to help them be successful in the community, the job search and the workplace. But they also have fun. In addition to field trips, which will start this spring, “they tell me they really enjoy Chapel and eating in the cafeteria with their fellow MNU students,” Dowis added.

Friesland and Dr. Nancy Damron, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, worked with Lakemary Center’s staff to create the program.

careers-and-more-9v2Left to right: Josh Wise, Careers & More assistant teacher, Josh Tate, Michael Gordon, Chris Sloan, Stacy Peek, Rachel Dowis, Careers & More teacher. Front row: Alex Schrag.“We want to be a community resource and this program is a mission fit,” Damron says. “Our research and experience tell us that parents and their developmentally disabled students want a college experience, they just didn’t have a partner to provide that until now.”

Federal financial aid is available for those who qualify. For more information about the program visit www.mnu.edu/careers-and-more

 

 

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