Students with intellectual disabilities are already experiencing an inclusive educational program at Millersville University of Pennsylvania (MU). And now, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education (US ED), more colleges and universities across the Commonwealth will be able to replicate MU’s program. The $2.36 million grant will help to change lives and create learning opportunities.
“It’s simply profound the impact this grant will have,” said Dr. Thomas Neuville, principal investigator on the grant and an associate professor of Educational Foundations at Millersville. “The five-year grant will improve post college employment opportunities for students in the current program “Career and Life Studies” at Millersville, as well as having it serve as a model to develop similar programs.”
“We recognized that the model program we have at Millersville could be replicated,” said Dr. John Anderson, president of Millersville. “This grant means the students already in our program will see an enhanced level of support and services, especially around internships, apprenticeships and employment when they leave here. The grant will definitely make dreams come true.”
The grant is in collaboration with Penn State University-Harrisburg and Mercyhurst University. In addition, the D.R.E.A.M. Partnership (Dreams Realized Through Educational Aspirational Model), an organization working toward providing educational opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities after high school, played a major role in the grant award.
Millersville University developed a pilot program as a result of a $50,000 grant in 2014 from the D.R.E.A.M. Partnership, a subsidiary of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Pa. “Over the past two and a half years, DREAM has worked with four institutions of higher education to develop postsecondary transition programs,” explained Sherri Landis, director of DREAM. “Our focus will be to find additional partners.”
The grant will fund the creation of a statewide consortium — Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium — dedicated to the mission of inclusive postsecondary education for young adults with intellectual disabilities and DREAM will be coordinating the symposium initiative.
“What makes the program work at Millersville is that students in programs across the University get to know each other,” said Neuville. “Typically MU students are not afforded the opportunity to learn with students with intellectual disabilities. Now they get to spend time together in a vibrant college community where marginalization is fought. This will alter the life path of not just the folks in Career and Life Studies, but of all of our students.”
Current undergraduate students serve as coaches for the people in Career Studies. Professors are involved by adding teaching strategies based on the students in their classroom. Students completing the two-year program will receive a 60-hour certificate.
The overarching vision of the program is to design and support inclusive postsecondary learning within a higher education environment.
About Career & Life Studies
Millersville’s Career & Life Studies program enrolled their first student in fall 2014 and expanded to nine students for fall 2015. The program provides individuals with an intellectual disability an opportunity to obtain a high-quality, individualized postsecondary education that will lead to social and professional networks, careers and a bright future. Applications are continually accepted.