9:15 a.m., Nov. 11, 2010----The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Delaware a $2.3 million grant to fund a five-year education project designed to expand postsecondary opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities (ID).
This model demonstration project will give students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enroll in a two-year Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. The CLSC certificate is designed to provide a meaningful credential to students and help them move on to gainful employment.
The project is designed to positively impact a student's successful transition into adulthood and, at the same time, allow researchers to examine the factors that facilitate or impede those transitions.
It involves a large amount of University-wide and eventually, statewide collaboration. Within the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), Laura Eisenman, associate professor in the School of Education, is overseeing the project. Beth Mineo, center director for the Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) and associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), will serve as the faculty adviser.
The program involves additional staff from CDS and is also coordinating with the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies at the University.
"We view it as a natural extension of the work that's been done here on campus, in partnership with school districts and community agencies," said Eisenman. "What the model program allows us to do is create a more comprehensive program and plug in the additional supports that will make for a meaningful experience."
For more than 15 years, UD has collaborated with school districts in the state to provide campus- and community-based education services to young adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, working with transition programs and employment services, like the Swank Employment project, has helped the University lay the framework needed to establish a model demonstration program for postsecondary education.
The two-year program will offer a specialized career studies track and life studies track, as well as other inclusive learning opportunities for students on campus. Each student will have an individualized plan that includes peer mentoring and staff coaching. The students' academic year will begin in the summer with an orientation and other sessions, which will allow them to become acclimated to campus life.
"This program is going to be a game-changer," said Mineo. "One of the key tenets is integration, so we are going to be working hard to ensure that the students have a full, meaningful campus experience, both academically and socially."
Program organizers hope to admit 15 students into the first cohort for fall 2011. Details about eligibility and the admissions process will be available by February.
While there have been specific postsecondary opportunities for students with ID in terms of academic tutoring or employment training, the state has never been able to offer such a comprehensive, integrated program at the postsecondary level specifically for people with intellectual disabilities.
"Professional and Continuing Studies is honored to work with CEHD in offering this innovative and important certificate program," said James Broomall, assistant provost, Division of Professional and Continuing Studies. "Our units partners with each of the seven academic colleges to meet the learning and career goals of adult and nontraditional students. The U.S. Department of Education funded program for students with disabilities is a special opportunity to meet their needs. We look forward to providing the administrative, marketing, and program support for this unique certificate program."
Although the grant is designed to fund the program for five years, it will also establish partnerships between UD, Delaware State University, and other institutions of higher education in an effort to promote the sustainability and replication of the program.
"College wasn't an option before for students with ID at the post-secondary education level," said Eisenman. "The idea is to mirror the options available to other people in our community without disabilities. This is one that we are very excited about being able to offer."
In October, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $10.5 million to 27 two- and four- year institutions of higher education or consortia of institutions as part of the Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) and established a national coordinating center.
Article by Cassandra Kramer