With the help of a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Utah Valley University will be launching a three-year certificate program for Utah residents with intellectual disabilities in summer 2021.
As a part of the program, called Wolverines Elevated, students will earn a certificate in Integrated College and Community Studies, which can be paired with other certificates available at the college.
The program will be based out of the university’s Melissa Nellesen Center for Autism, starting with a cohort of five to seven students for the first two years, with plans to welcome 10 to 12 students per year in the future. It’s funded through a Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant, a decade-old federal program.
“One of the things we know right now is more than half of students with intellectual disabilities are unemployed or underemployed as adults,” said Dr. Jane Carlson, director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. “What we’re really hoping to do is move the needle on the percentage of students who are out there living and working independently in the community in competitive employment. And we firmly believe these students are very capable of achieving that.”
The emphasis of the program is on career development. In the first year, students will be shadowing staff on campus doing different kinds of jobs to explore potential career goals. Their second year will include an on-campus internship, and in their final year, they’ll intern off campus through the program’s business partnerships, so students will graduate with a padded resume. Simultaneously, students take both specialized courses and classes alongside the rest of the student body, with the support of a vocational coordinator and a group of peer mentors.
Students will also participate in “the typical things that college students do when they’re being college students,” Carlson said, like campus clubs and sporting events.
She thinks Utah Valley University is an ideal place for a program like this. A four-year college since 1993, the university started as a vocational school, so it still has a “rich array” of certificate programs that students with intellectual disab
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