COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX)- Attending a university like Texas A&M is a dream many students with intellectual and developmental disabilities never get to fulfill. They have the same wants and desires as other students, but many universities do not have the programs available to support them.
Photo of Miguel Gonzalez provided by Texas A&M University
This fall, that changes for the state of Texas with the launch of Aggie ACHIEVE, an inclusive, four-year postsecondary education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Aggie ACHIEVE (Academic Courses in Higher Inclusive Education and Vocational Experiences) is a certificate-based inclusive higher education program for young adults with disabilities to expand their interests and prepare them for employment.
While the students involved in Aggie ACHIEVE will not receive a degree from Texas A&M, they will graduate with a certificate, acknowledging their successful completion of the program.
Aggie ACHIEVE is the brainchild of Dr. Carly Gilson, assistant professor of special education.
“This is not meant to be a place to come get the college experience and then go back to what you were doing before. 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,” said Gilson.
The first cohort includes four students from across the state. These students will live on campus, participate in classes and serve in clubs and organizations.
“We are focused on the importance of being an inclusive and immersive program. We have a campus community of 60,000 students and we want to make sure that the students in Aggie ACHIEVE are going to be integrated fully into that campus community,” explained Gilson.
The first two years of the program will introduce students to college life through seminars focused on independent living, career awareness and self-determination. The students will also be required to audit credit courses.
The last two years are focused on career development and field specialization. Students will participate in on- and off-campus internships in their field of interest.
Gilson is using a process called person-centered planning. Each student and their family will meet with faculty and staff involved in the program to design their individualized goals each year of the program.
To read more on this program, click here.