There are some children that grow up knowing they will be attending a university, but for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities attending is likely just a dream.
The pilot program Aggies Elevated changed that expectation this year by creating a path for eight freshmen with intellectual disabilities to enroll at Utah State University beginning this fall semester.
Sarah Stone is the program director of Aggies Elevated, and said Aggies Elevated provides programmatic support for disabled students that are not otherwise available from the campus Disability Resource Center.
The goal will be for students to gain an inclusive college experience. Whether it be living in the dorms or managing time to participate club activities.
“Hopefully, from that point they will have skills marketable for employment or they will have the desire to go on to a two or four year degree and have the skills to succeed at that,” Stone said.
The students’ schedules will consist of existing courses at USU as well as classes on how to live independently.
The program is currently in a trial stage and has been funded completely by private donations.
“We hope that this program will be piloted to other universities so that Utah State is not the only one that has it, but so that we can serve many,” Stone said. “The students’ success will be an indication of where we go from here.”
These students will receive tutoring, counseling, study groups and personal mentors to help them through their program.
"When our students finish the two-year certificate program, they will have the tools they need to live as independently as possible and to find meaningful employment that they enjoy. They may decide that a two-year or four-year degree is what they need for the life they want, and they will also have the study skills and tools to continue their education if that’s what they choose," Stone said.
An intellectual disability is a person who has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. This causes children to develop slower than their peers. Autism and Down Syndrome would be examples.