Friday, November 28, 2014

Think College

Have you heard?  College IS for everyone.

I have spent the great majority of my teaching career at the elementary school level, teaching students ages 5 years to 13 years old.  Kindergarteners are so young, small, and far from adulthood that it is easy to plan for today, not for their adult life.  And yet, if schools are really doing right by students, we are planning for their transition to adulthood from the minute they arrive until their graduation day.

What happens after graduation?  Researchers have been carefully taking demographic, longitudinal, and census information for years to determine the effectiveness of the public school years for individuals with disabilities.  After all, it isn't about a grade, a project, a course, a final exam.  What schools really are charged with doing is preparing future adults to excel at a job of their choice, be connected to each other through friendships and relationships, and be meaningful participants in society.

Sadly, the data indicates that for individuals with disabilities, we have a long way to go to effectiveness.  You see, for individuals with an IEP, less than 1 in 3 will have a job, part-time or full-time, attend post-secondary schools, or vocational training.  Their life becomes a life of seclusion, days on the couch with little to no contact outside their home. This is not a life I would wish for anyone.

Think College is a bright star of possibility.  Grants and funding options help to make this affordable, and at many schools, free, including housing and food.  Students experience the social, academic, and independent living experiences available to all individuals attending college. I recently went to an event for a Think College program near me and was able to hear from both a student in the program and her ambassador.  It was clear to all, they were not an individual with a disability and a non-disabled peer.  They were friends.  Inside jokes, secret giggles, and looks of genuine compassion flowed easily between them.  As I watched, I made my wish that all who want to,

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