Achieva embraces college-based programs for students with ID
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Achieva embraces college-based programs for students with ID

Ben Guthrie is realizing his dream of attending college at Duquesne University's Compass Program.

College, and Students with Intellectual Disabilities

By Steve Suroviec, President and CEO

The end of August is a time when young people are heading back to college, moving into their dorms or off-campus apartments, and getting ready to participate in all that a college experience has to offer. In recent years, a movement to create college-based programs for adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) has taken root. Achieva embraced it by including efforts to promote such college-based programs in its 2019 Strategic Vision Plan.

In recent years, changes have been made at the state level to make funding available for such educational opportunities. For example, the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation will provide financial support for college-based programs for their customers with ID, as will the PA Office of Developmental Programs through its Medicaid-funded home and community-based service waiver programs. The state’s Bureau of Special Education has also authorized and encouraged some local school districts to permit its students in special education to attend a college-based program in lieu of traditional programming at their high school (i.e., those taking advantage of their special education entitlement age 18 through 21). Attending college-based programs not only assists people with ID eventually find competitive-integrated jobs, but it also helps develop self-advocacy skills, independent living skills, and social skills – all fancy terms for living on your own, making friends, and learning a skill so you can get a job.

Achieva has developed easy-to-understand information for those who are interested in exploring this option, and we have advocates on staff who are ready and willing to help anyone who has questions. In addition, Achieva recently approved a special fund that will eventually be able to assist adults with ID with the financial costs of attending post-secondary education. The Kaye Cupples Scholarship Fund is supported by the family and friends of L. Kaye Cupples (1951-2019) who was an icon in the Pittsburgh Public School District when it came to the support and inclusion of students with disabilities. The Fund is in its infancy, and so no scholarships have been given out as yet, but we expect that once developed the Kaye Cupples Scholarship Fund will help many local young people with ID go to college or attend some other post-secondary education program. If you'd like to help grow the Fund, contributions can be made to “Achieva – Kaye Cupples Scholarship Fund” or by clicking here to donate online.

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