Lexington, Kentucky (January 9, 2023) — On the Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving, a group of University of Kentucky students and their parents gathered around a table to share how grateful they were for this opportunity.
Students are part of the UK’s new University and Career Studies (CCS) programme, led by the University’s Human Development Institute (HDI). This is a comprehensive transition and post-secondary (CTP) program endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education for those wishing to continue their academic, career, technical, and independent living instruction to prepare for competitive integrated employment Intended for students with intellectual disabilities.
The program is part of the Kentucky Assisted Higher Education Partnership (KSHEP), a statewide network of higher education institutions that provide comprehensive higher education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. HDI not only coordinates his CTP program in the UK, but also serves as a technical assistance center for supported higher education in Kentucky. Other partners in the UK program include the Center for Enhanced Learning and Education (CELT), the Staccato Career Center and the Disability Resource Centre.
“This is something we’ve wanted for a long time,” one parent shared with the group.
Five students are currently enrolled in the CCS program, most of whom have just completed their first semester of college. One student piloted the program last year and is returning for her second year in the UK.
At Tuesday’s get-together, students shared their favorite parts of campus so far.
“I love my class.”
“I love meeting my friends.”
“I love learning.”
“I love being in college.”
“I am fulfilling my dream.”
CCS Program Coordinator Erin Fitzgerald smiled as students walked around the room and shared their individual successes.
“Overall, the program is doing very well,” Fitzgerald told UKNow. “We had moments here and there where we had to work on a few things, but overall I think it was a really good experience for the students and everyone involved.”
Fitzgerald stays in touch with students throughout the program, from application to completion, and provides faculty and staff support as needed or requested. Parents described Fitzgerald as the lifeblood of the students, someone who was supportive, proactive, and kept the program organized and safe.
Most students have taken two classes this semester, including UK 101, to learn about university life. Like other college students, Fitzgerald said future classes will follow areas of interest.
“These classes feel like they’re laying the groundwork and laying the groundwork from the get-go to allow students to focus a little more on their specific interests in the next semester of courses,” Fitzgerald explained. “Then, if students are interested in taking classes related to writing or communication, they can choose courses in that direction, or art, dance, science or math.”
Students take courses that are open to other UK students. They shared the stress of midterms and finals with the group, along with a test of navigating a large campus, including learning bus routes and where major facilities such as the library and fitness center are located. Seeing them overcome these challenges is considered a triumph for Fitzgerald.
“Seeing students become more comfortable in a campus environment is one of my greatest joys, because I think it lays the foundation for a more meaningful experience each semester,” said Fitzgerald. rice field.
Parents shared the differences they saw in their students and became more independent and confident in themselves. Many shared the sentiment that the CCS program is an answer to their prayers and a long-awaited hope for such an opportunity.
In Kentucky, approximately 7% of students with intellectual disabilities enter a college or university the year after high school.
“We take our status as the federal flagship university very seriously.
Program leaders say the program’s challenges are on the administrative side, building infrastructure that didn’t exist before to handle the nuances and differences in student situations. For example, some students may not meet traditional admission requirements. Also, they are not degree-seeking students and may have questions about applying for federal financial aid for which they are currently eligible.
“The program is new to everyone in the UK, including faculty not affiliated with the programme, students on campus, so there is a learning curve in that sense. Thank you,” Fitzgerald said.
“The whole campus was great. She walks around like any other student,” said one parent.
The program is also making connections at the university. Her senior Kayla, who is majoring in education and dance, helped organize her dance workshops with her students and her fellow mentors. Students highlighted it as one of their favorite memories of her.
“It was a really good experience,” said Fitzgerald. “I got to see some of the students have elements of each. It was a side of them that I didn’t get to see. Everyone connected and learned together.”
Spring semester students are interested in studying subjects such as music appreciation, dance, creative writing, communication, drama and mythology. It also adds an element of work experience. Program leaders are exploring options for internship placements and volunteer experience with local theater companies, community music organizations, local dance companies, Christian student fellowships and CELT.
“We hope this program will make a positive contribution to Kentucky’s inclusive workforce,” Collett said. “As our state moves toward an increasingly skilled and diverse workforce, we want students coming out of this program to be seen as part of our talent pipeline and people with disabilities. We want you to recognize the contributions we can and are making to our workforce.”
Kentucky passed the Employment First Act last year. Prioritize the philosophy that everyone has the right to work, including those with serious disabilities. Competitive and integrated community employment is the first and main option for persons with disabilities of working age who wish to be employed.
That Tuesday morning, parents tearfully thanked the UK team for creating and directing the CCS programme.
“You might think big colleges can’t accommodate you, but they can,” said one parent.
Program leaders continue to focus on students and their success.
“I consider a program a success if we can be a part of whatever it takes to help students reach the next step in their goals. It will be different,” said Fitzgerald.
Program leaders plan to enroll five more students in the fall semester of 2023, with an application window opening in the spring.
For more information on UK university and career study programs, including how to apply, please contact Erin Fitzgerald (Erin.Fitzgerald@uky.edu). You can also check online for more information here.
For more information on inclusive higher education in Kentucky, please contact Johnny Collett (Johnny.Collett@uky.edu) or visit https://kshep.hdiuky.org/.
About Human Development Institute
The Human Development Institute (HDI) is a unit of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Kentucky and the University of Kentucky Disability Center. The HDI’s mission is to build inclusive communities, address inequalities, and advance efforts to improve the lives of all who experience disability throughout their lives.
The HDI also serves as a statewide Technical Assistance Center supporting CTP programs at Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, and Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and also provides referrals to other Kentucky colleges and universities interested in establishing programs. It also serves as a resource for