The 2013 Career and Life Studies Certificate class.

Inclusive and effusive

University's CLSC students earn their certificates

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11:37 a.m., May 22, 2013--Most students participating in this weekend’s University of Delaware Commencement activities knew they would cross the finish line. For other students, however, the postsecondary education path has not always been certain. 

On May 24, 10 young adults with intellectual disabilities will don caps and gowns and walk across the stage at the College of Education and Human Development Convocation ceremony to be recognized for completing UD’s Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. 

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The CLSC program is a two-year, non-residential certificate program at the University for students with intellectual disabilities. CLSC provides integrated academic, career/technical and life skills instruction in preparation for gainful employment or higher education.

CLSC students attend classes, participate in work experiences and internships, and engage in campus life through a variety of activities in accordance with their academic and personal goals.

Students who successfully complete the CLSC program receive a certificate in Career and Life Studies from UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies and the college.

In 2010, UD was one of 27 colleges and universities in the country to receive funding to support a Transition and Post-secondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities. Through this funding, a new post-high school option was developed for students with intellectual disabilities in the state of Delaware. 

Matt Kuliszewski, a 2013 certificate recipient, said he was thrilled to be a part of the program. “It was great, being encouraged to try new activities and clubs and experience all the wonderful opportunities that are available here on the UD campus,” he said. “The CLSC program is really challenging with classes, internships and coaching sessions to work on our goals. You need to have balance in your life, and we do that by joining clubs, enjoying cultural events and being involved in sports and recreational activities.”

The CLSC program also provided various opportunities for UD students to be involved -- as interns, summer scholars, or participating in independent study experiences.

Twenty-six students served as coaches, helping CLSC participants with undergraduate academics, work and life skills. Another 48 were peer mentors through a peer mentoring course (EDUC 345). UD Best Buddies club members also provided social supports for many of the CLSC students. 

Alyssa Fiume is a senior graduating with a major in human services and a minor in disabilities studies. “Being at the CLSC program for my internship has been an absolutely unforgettable experience,” she said. “The students have made such an impact on me and working with each and every one of them has been amazing. Each of them has that little ‘spark’ where you can see their wonderful talents and skills, and see how hard they work for something. Working with the students and the staff at CLSC has definitely reassured me that this is the field of work I want to be in.”

Like other members of the Class of 2013, some CLSC certificate recipients aim to pursue further education while others pursue employment. One of this year’s recipients is applying to become a UD undergraduate, having successfully completed multiple undergraduate courses in her second year of the program. Several students have found employment and others are in the process of locating jobs.

While this year marks the first year students have completed the CLSC program, the program continues, with seven students enrolled in the second cohort that will finish next year. Another seven were accepted for entry in the fall. 

The grant is led by faculty and staff from the School of Education and the Center for Disabilities Studies including Brian Freedman, project director; Laura Eisenman, principal investigator; Beth Mineo, faculty adviser; and Debbie Bain and Wendy Claiser, program coordinators. 

“With the support of the Delaware Education Research and Development Center, we are continually trying to improve the experience for CLSC students,” said Eisenman. “Program evaluation efforts have helped us identify ways to increase student inclusion in a variety of campus resources and refine the coaching support that students receive. In addition, faculty and administrators have been welcoming, which has helped us to identify new opportunities for students that meet their individual learning goals.”

The grant funding ends September 2015, but the program will continue as a self-sustaining fee- and tuition-based certificate program. In preparation, program staff members are working with UD’s financial aid office to become a Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP), a recently established designation under the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act, which will permit CLSC students to apply for financial aid.  

Program officials also hope to establish a second program in Georgetown next year to serve students in southern Delaware in partnership with the UD Associate in Arts Program, Delaware Technical Community College and local school districts.

See a previous UDaily article about Disability Mentoring Day and the CLSC program. 

Article by Christina Mason Johnston

Photos by Lane McLaughlin and Kathy F. Atkinson

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