For high school students with intellectual disabilities, the idea of enjoying college life might seem like an unattainable dream.
Now, thanks to a new program at Appalachian State University, that dream is becoming a reality.
Watauga High School graduate Courtney Bell is the first student in ASU’s new Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP). The new program, funded through a Transition and Postsecondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant, “aims to provide individuals ... access to an inclusive college program designed to prepare students with greater independence and enhanced self-determination for life after college.”
“It’s a two-year program,” SDAP program director Melody Schwantes said. “Each student’s course of study will be tailor-made to fit their career and life interests. Courtney is taking four classes, including courses in music and swimming and CPR.”
According to Schwantes, the SDAP began at ASU in the spring when the school received its first grant, and Bell is the program’s pilot student.
The grant is a federal five-year grant administered through Western Carolina University.
“We hope to have 15 or 16 students in the program by 2015,” Schwantes said.
Schwantes meets with Bell two or three times a week and has recruited 20 student volunteers who help with her tutoring.
“Right now, she is living with her parents in Boone,” Schwantes said, “but next semester, she will live in a dormitory on campus.”
SDAP students will take classes at ASU in a two-year program that will include college courses, individualized instruction and the opportunity to participate in recreational and extracurricular activities, including volunteering with other students.
Bell is assisted with her program by music therapy and special education majors who serve as “Appvocates.” In addition to helping Bell with classroom assignments, they also accompany her to the ASU cafeteria, university swimming pool and football games.
For more information, visit http://www.sdap.appstate.edu.