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Twenty students with intellectual disabilities get to chance at the campus lifestyle

Posted at 8:22 PM, Jun 26, 2023

Colorado Springs— The Office of Inclusive Services at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs created a new program for students with intellectual disabilities. Through the Summer Institute 2023 program, twenty high school students and young adults get to experience what it is like to go to college.

The Office of Inclusive Services created this program after it received a $90,000 grant from Disabling Barriers.

The free week-long program allows students with disabilities, who are interested in going to college, a chance to see what it is like.

The Director of UCCS Office of Inclusive Services Christi Kasa said the goal of this week is to help get acquainted with what life is like in college.

“We wanted to open this up to students who might still be in high school or have just graduated from school and who might be interested in going to college but don't know what it's like,” Kasa said.

Students got a tour of the campus, saw what it's like inside a college class, did creative writing exercises, participated in a scavenger hunt, yard games, and more. They also did activities related to travel and got the chance to go to the recreation center.

“The focus is supporting students to gain skills around academics, independent living, career, and social life,” Kasa said.

Connor Fox is currently a sophomore student at USSC and was excited to volunteer as a mentor.

“I want to be a mentor because there are so many students that really want to be welcomed here. I feel like I am going to be really good at helping them to ease in and help them get familiar with the area,” Fox said.

One of the students Fox mentored was Danny Poniatowski. Poniatowski said this was his first time on a college campus and he likes it so far.

“It's going pretty good, we traveled and we walked on the campus, it was pretty good. I tried some cool things,” Poniatowski said.

Alexis Christman is the Director of Disabling Barriers. Disabling Barriers provides grants for children and young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities all across southern Colorado.

Christman said this is a huge step for inclusion.

“It's a marker of inclusion for these students to know that they can pursue higher education, which again is something that a lot of them and their families I think have never thought about. So it's been tremendous to see the impact and we've heard such wonderful feedback from the first week,” Christman said.

Christman said this program has been a success so far.

“A lot of the mentors have said that they've seen the students blossom right in front of them. They're becoming more social. They're becoming more excited and they're really considering college as something that they can do, for the first time and we're just so thrilled to be a part of it,” Christman said.

Kasa said she hopes to take this good feedback and continue these programs in the future.

“We are very excited. We hope to put it in the first week of June next summer. We're already in the planning mode. So yes, we want to keep doing this,” Kasa said.

Students in the program are eligible to apply for a scholarship from Disabling Barriers. Disabling Barriers is offering four scholarships roughly around ten thousand to help fund the first semester at UCCS. In addition to the one-week summer incentive, UCCS also offers a 4-year certificate program that students with disabilities can apply for.

Christman encourages departments and organizations to apply for grants during their next cycle.

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