College can often seem out of reach for families whose children deal with a variety of developmental disabilities, but a new local program wants to change that.
The Careers & More certificate program at MidAmerica Nazarene University aims to give young adults with special needs a chance at the college experience.
The program is a partnership between MidAmerica Nazarene and the Lakemary Center, which helps children and adults with developmental disabilities. After a successful pilot program this spring, organizers hope to launch the first class at MidAmerica Nazarene on its two-year program this August.
Students who qualify for the program would take a variety of courses five days a week during the fall and spring semesters, including specialized courses such as personal and professional development and daily living and communication skills. They would also take classes that include other MidAmerica Nazarene students, such as aerobics and technology for life.
There would be a summer component available at the Lakemary Center, and students may take other courses offered by MidAmerica Nazarene for an additional fee. They also get all the access and privileges any other student at the university would get.
To be considered for admission to the program, students must be between 18 and 29 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and have documentation proving a diagnosis of a developmental disability. One key point of the program is to develop and hone workplace skills, so students need to be interested in having a job in the community.
Students will get a chance to explore different possible workplaces and work with a job coach to clarify their employment dreams and what steps they can take to head in the right direction.
“Everyone has dreams,” said Morgan Mojica, coordinator of community employment the Lakemary Center. “Part of our job is to help them reel it in and figure out realistic steps on how to get there,” Mojica said.
The cost per semester, including books, fees and credit hours is about $6,725. Students can apply for financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships but will not be eligible for loans. The grading scale for all classes in the program is pass or no credit.
“The point is to provide these skills and experiences for these students that they can pick up on without having to memorize 4,000 things for an exam or write a 15-page paper,” said Neil Friesland, co-director of Careers & More and a professor of special education at MidAmerica Nazarene.
For the program to be able to launch, at least 10 students have to sign up. The program can handle up to 19. So far, two students have applied, but the program will continue to accept applications up to the start of classes or until there are 19 students signed up.
Lisa Jordan of Gardner attended a recent information session for the program to see if it might be a good fit for her son, who has autism.
“The problem we’ve had is because he’s high functioning, it’s hard to find a program that gives him the support he needs but not more than he needs,” she said. This program “is going to be a great resource for students (in) that middle-of-the-road place.”
For more information about the program, go to www.mnu.edu/education/careers-and-more.
Beth Lipoff: firstname.lastname@example.org