In a historic move, Texas A&M has just become the first university in the state to offer a higher education program for students with disabilities.

The new four-year program called Aggie ACHIEVE allows students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take part in post-secondary coursework in an environment that is both inclusive and tailored to their individual needs. The program launches this fall with its first four students who will spend the first two years focused on studying independent living, career awareness and self-determination. The second two years will involve participating in internships in their field of interest and focusing on career development and field specialization.

“This is not meant to be a place to come get the college experience and then go back to what you were doing before,” said Dr. Carly Gilson, assistant professor of special education in Texas A&M’s College of Education & Human Development. “The intention of this program is to provide a rigorous education, academics and employment experience that will prepare these young adults to go out and work in the community in a job they are interested in that matches their strengths.”

According to a statement, the Aggie ACHIEVE students will live on campus, participate in classes and join school organizations and clubs. They will also have the opportunity to develop relationships with other students through ACHIEVEmates, which will set up peer mentors, lunch partners and “fitness friends.”

Several higher education programs for students with disabilities already exist across the country, but in the state of Texas this will be the first four-year post-secondary program. While the students will not receive a degree from the university, they will earn a certificate acknowledging their completion of the program.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Michael Coghlan via Flickr



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