Students with Down syndrome in Indiana now have a better chance of receiving a college education, thanks to a new specialized program offered at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg. The program, called Ivy Power, will provide post-secondary education to students with intellectual disabilities. Those entering the program will be paired with a peer mentor and will receive many of the benefits of the college experience, like work-study opportunities and internships. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to participate in the campus’s student life activities and social organizations. The pilot program is expected to launch in the Fall 2020 semester.
Susan Teaford, of Down Syndrome of Louisville, explained why this type of program is so important. “I think that people with intellectual disabilities have a lot to give to the community, and they have a lot of learning left to do,” she told the local News and Tribune. “Learning is for everyone. Just because you have an intellectual disability, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning after high school and go to a day program. We just want all of our members with Down Syndrome to be able to continue to live their lives. College gives all students a more complete social, emotional and educational experience, and it’s where we grow up.”
While this pilot program is the first of its kind at Ivy Tech, it’s far from the only program in the country. Think College is a national organization dedicated to expanding and improving research into higher education programs for people with intellectual disabilities. Its resource directory currently includes 288 schools that all offer some type of program for students facing intellectual challenges. The scope of each program varies, but the intent is similar across the board: to provide life skills and foster independence so that these students can thrive.
By all appearances, these college programs are working. Last year, a story on Today featured several students who had graduated from inclusive college programs and now lead successful lives in the workforce.
Carly Riggs, engagement director of Down Syndrome of Louisville, best summed up the importance of these types of college programs. “Individuals with Down Syndrome and any intellectual disability, many of them say to me constantly that they just want to be like their brothers or sisters, and for many of them, they never thought they’d be able to go to college like their brothers and sisters, and it’s a huge deal when they do get that opportunity,” she told the News and Tribune. “Just having the same opportunities as anyone else is very important. And the more that we see individuals with disabilities in a college setting and in the workplace and out living in the world, just being treated as a human being, the more humanity is going to keep getting better and better.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about programs in your area or how you can facilitate a similar program at your own school, visit the Think College website.
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