DREAM Makes Dreams Come True for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

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Millersville faculty and students are developing this pilot project. They are left to right back row, Tyler Gehman, Barry Kornhauser, Daniel Castellanos, Thomas Neuville and Joe Sciarretta. Left to right front row, Rosemarie Cruz, Jan Bechtel and Betsy Neuville

When many high school students with an intellectual disability graduate, their options may be limited to sheltered workshops or staying at home. That won’t be the case for one student who will attend Millersville University of Pennsylvania, thanks to a grant from the Dreams Realized Through Educational Aspiration Model (D.R.E.A.M.) Partnership, a nonprofit organization located in Central Pennsylvania.

The pilot program begins this fall with one student and will expand to six students in the fall of 2015. The $50,000 initiative, led by Dr. Thomas Neuville, Educational Foundations professor at Millersville, will support people with intellectual disabilities to experience a high-quality, individualized postsecondary education that will lead to social and professional networks, careers and a bright future.

“Millersville is one of the first universities in the nation to admit a student with an intellectual disability,” said Neuville. “It means the student will have a chance to exceed typical expectations of poverty and unemployment.”

“This inclusive initiative is intended to strengthen our academic community and the broader community as well,” says Neuville. “When students with intellectual disabilities are included as typical college students, there are great benefits to the campus community: faculty, staff and students. We are interested in these students being full participants in all aspects of university life, rather than being a part of a “special” or separate program.”

The grant to Millersville funds the full development of a new “Career and Life Studies Certificate.”  It includes hiring a graduate assistant and multiple student workers under the guidance of Neuville. Students completing the two-year program receive a 60-hour certificate.

Sheltered workshops, which have been declared unconstitutional in multiple states, are organizations that employ people with intellectual disabilities. The term refers to entities that pay their employees’ subminimum wage. U.S. public policy has shifted away from sheltered workshops in favor of programs and activities in an integrated setting. Sheltered workshops have been the subject of criticism for being exploitative, abusive and discriminatory

“It is easy to see why our new educational program is important to those in need of viable options,” said Neuville.

  1. Barry Kornhauser says:

    A terrific program and a wonderful first student in Daniel. But just a photo caption correction: The young woman on the left in the front row is not MU student Aisling Burns, but Daniel’s M-Uth Theater colleague and friend Rosemarie Cruz. Thanks Dr. Neuville for developing this new course of study.

  2. Ellen Long says:

    Congratulations Thomas! Your vision and dedication has made this dream possible!

  3. Matt Miller says:

    This SO COOL!! Gosh…just thinking about all the opportunity to grow and learn (academically and socially) afforded to someone walking to class on campus as opposed to walking into a workshop is so exciting. The vast and regular opportunity for role circularity act to reinforce positive skills and competencies abound …not to mention maybe some typical, freely given relationships developing! Nothing short of a life altering opportunity for the student and a significant way to possibly start to make a significant dent in the communities perceptions. Way to go!! Have a mentioned this is SO COOL!!

  4. Nazli Hardy says:

    Congratulations to this visionary team! This is yet another example of “quality education with a purpose” that make Millersville University truly special. (Special shout-out to my friend, Jan Bechtel)

  5. Ojoma Edeh Herr says:

    Well-done, Thomas! This Program will benefit many students. ongratulations!

  6. Dana Wile says:

    I saw a presentation about this program at the PA School Counselors Association Conference in December 2013. I am glad it is coming to Millersville University!

  7. Diane Fleisman says:

    Congratulations Thomas! I know this is also a dream realized for you. Great work.

  8. Carlos A. Marrero says:

    As a social work major and one that works with consumers that are challenged by Autism, as well as many other disorders, it is so pleasing to hear of a program that will empower those who would typically be forgotten. There are so many people that are merely written off by society because of intellectual challenges, and it makes me so happy to see that my future alma mater is doing something to change that, even if it is one person at a time. Good luck to all that enter through this program–reach for the stars!

  9. Kimberly Gitlen says:

    Congrats MU and Dr. Neuville! You are living proof that one idea and one person can make a difference for change to begin!

  10. Jon Stillman says:

    Tom,

    Could you keep me posted about this program?

    Jon

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