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Kent State Program Caters to Students With Intellectual Disabilities

Posted Feb. 17, 2014 | Wezley Garlick
Program offers students college education and the opportunity for self-sufficient, independent lives
enter photo description
Krista Stumm, a student in Kent State University's Career
and Community Studies program, works on a project in the
Ceramics Lab. The Career and Community Studies program
is a nondegree, four-year college experience for students
with intellectual disabilities.

The Career and Community Studies program, a nondegree, four-year college experience, is offered at Kent State University to support students with intellectual disabilities as they transition into adult roles. Students in this program develop into more self-determined individuals as they set academic, independent-living and career goals.

The Career and Community Studies program is funded by a Transition to Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant from the federal Office of Postsecondary Education. The program’s staff members work closely with Kent State administrators and faculty members during this development phase to determine best practices for continued implementation of a fully inclusive college program.

“I have more confidence and self-awareness now than I ever did before” says Streetsboro native Chrissy Motz, a student in the program.

Motz, along with 18 other individuals, came to Kent State in fall 2011 and is currently in her junior year. The program is in its pilot phase and will be reassessed after the first class of students completes their courses in spring 2015.

“The program is preparing us for our future and what it will be like in the real world,” says Derek Hunter, a student in the program.

“We want the Career and Community Studies college experience to be as similar as it can be to any four-year undergraduate college program,” says Vonnie Michali, program development director for Career and Community Studies.

Students in the program take Kent State courses related to career interests, attend sports events and hang out at the local coffee shops like other college students. Students who demonstrate they are ready for an independent-living experience also can live in residence halls with other students.

“We also provide support to our students on an individualized basis in order to help them be as successful as possible in their endeavors,” says Michali.

Student-directed meetings with staff from the Career and Community Studies program and Kent State faculty members help to determine the best academic plan and to make any necessary accommodations. Student Accessibility Services provides support as they do to any student who needs certain considerations for access on campus. Students can apply for federal financial aid, and their parents can apply for ParentPlus loans.

Perhaps just as important as advancing educational and career goals, going to college is a time for students to mature and to discover who they are.

Krista Stumm, a student in the Career and Community Studies program, says that since joining the program she has learned a few important things about herself.

“Whenever I’m having a rough day volunteering or in class, I learned that I can keep going forward and not get stuck on it,” says Stumm. “I have also become more independent in each of my three years here.”

In Stumm’s free time, she enjoys drawing and ceramics. Recently, she illustrated a children’s book titled Micadoo Blue, written by Amanda Burke and Vanessa Ware. After completion of the program, Stumm wants to continue her career path of puppetry and work in some capacity in the puppet industry.

“I have learned that I am capable of doing more than I thought I could do,” says Liz Cooper, another student from Stow.

Cooper says the program has helped her learn to become more independent, hardworking and organized. She says she had some difficulties adjusting to college, but she is enjoying her time in the program.

“Life is full of experiences, and you have to take advantage of each opportunity,” Cooper says.

Cooper wants to eventually work in office management and would be happy if she could work for the human resources department at Kent State.

Motz emphasizes how the program has helped her learn different techniques to improve on things that present difficulties for her. Motz says she struggled with time management and organizational skills, but with the support of the program’s staff, she found strategies and applications for her iPad that would help her become more independent in managing her life.

“Now I am able to make to-do lists and put things in my calendar to help me manage things that are difficult,” says Motz.

After completing the program, Motz has goals of working in the childcare field, getting married and owning her own home.

Hunter, who lives in Chagrin Falls with his family, has plans of working in the computer field upon completing the program. Hunter confidently says that he is doing well in the program and has noticed positive changes in himself since coming to Kent State.

“I want to make the Career and Community Studies program well-known,” says Hunter. “I want to see new people come into the program each year. I want them to know that they can come to college, have fun, complete the program and go out into the world.”

The Career and Community Studies program was first profiled in the fall 2013 edition of the Kent State Magazine. It is currently being developed by the Center for Innovation in Transition and Employment, which is housed within the School of Lifespan Development and Education Sciences in the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

The Center for Innovation in Transition and Employment at Kent State is offering a symposium for students, parents, school educators and administrators to hear more about the Career and Community Studies program. This symposium will take place on May 2 and 3 at the university. For more information about the symposium, visit www.kent.edu/ehhs/cite/events/t2/ksu-transition-symposium-2014.cfm.

For more information about the program, visit www.kentccs.com or contact Michali at yhale@kent.edu.

Read more about the students enrolled in the program in the story “Pursuing Independence” published in the fall 2013 Kent State Magazine.