FEBRUARY 12, 2018
Pilot Launched to Help Students with Intellectual Disabilities Attend College & Prepare for Employment
Getting accepted into college and having a "college experience" is a rite of passage for many young people in our society. A group that has traditionally not been able to have this experience is young adults with intellectual disabilities. While a typical college degree may be out of their reach for many, the ability to learn, interact, and engage in college experiences is not. The participation of individuals with intellectual disabilities in college programs can benefit not only those with a disability, but their same age peers who are in traditional degree-seeking programs. West Chester University is looking to provide that opportunity through The RAM (Real Achievement Matters) Initiative, a new pilot program that will begin to accept qualified students to start their college experience in Fall 2018.
Students admitted into the program will participate in a two-year fully inclusive educational experience in which they will be immersed in all aspects of campus life. RAM students will learn and interact with others. These students will typically audit classes as non-credit students. The classes will be the same taken by the typical WCU student as part of the University curriculum. Employment opportunities either on-campus or in the community will be available, as will internships.
The initiative is housed in the Professional Studies program within the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies. Professional Studies students are able to design and complete an individualized program of study, so it is a logical fit for the RAM program. The overall goal of the program is for students with intellectual disabilities to achieve the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: independent living, economic self-sufficiency, equality of opportunity, and full participation.
The RAM Initiative pilot has created a great deal of excitement on campus, as well as in the community. The faculty team that developed the project has been awarded a $60,000 grant from the Dream Partnership in Harrisburg, which provides start-up funding to Pennsylvania institutions of higher education for the development of postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities, in conjunction with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Access College-Employment Success (ACES) project.
Interested prospective students with intellectual disabilities (as defined by the Higher Education Opportunity Act), ages 18-24, are welcome to complete an application accessed at the Professional Studies website, separate from the usual undergraduate admission process. Applications will be accepted until March 9, 2018. A committee of faculty and staff will review the applications and select two students for admission to the Initiative for the Fall 2018 pilot year.
Interested students and their families are cordially invited to attend an informational open house at the University on Thursday, February 22, from 7 to 9 pm at Sykes Student Union, Room 252 A, West Chester, PA.