SELLERSBURG, Ind. (AP) – Ivy Tech Community College is preparing to test a pilot program at one of its southern Indiana campuses that will provide post-secondary education for students with Down syndrome.
The Ivy Power program, set to begin this fall at the college’s Sellersburg campus, will offer a two-year course of individualized studies and also provide students with a variety of vocational experiences, including internships and work-study opportunities, the News and Tribune reported.
The pilot program is being tested only at the Sellersburg campus by the statewide college, which has more than 20 campuses around Indiana, and only for students with Down syndrome – a genetic chromosomal disorder. But school officials hope to eventually expand it for students with other intellectual disabilities, said Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter.
The two-year course at the campus about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Louisville, Kentucky, in Clark County, will allow students to audit a minimum of one undergraduate course per semester.
Kim Kruer, the program coordinator, also chairs Ivy Tech’s physical therapist assistant program. She has a long history of working with Down Syndrome of Louisville, which is working with the college to launch the new program. The Louisville-based nonprofit provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals with Down syndrome.
“These individuals have been in the First Steps program, they’ve been in the school system, they’ve graduated from high school, so what’s next?” Kruer said. “So that’s kind of where we came into the picture and decided to make this partnership between the Down Syndrome of Louisville and Ivy Tech to give opportunities for these individuals to further their education.”
Gabby Campbell and Treasure Lehman, who both have Down syndrome, found out in early February that they had been accepted into the Ivy Power program.
Lehman, a 21-year-old from New Albany, expressed her excitement in a video posted to the Louisville nonprofit’s Facebook page where she cheered, “Ivy Tech baby!”
Campbell, a 22-year-old from southern Indiana’s Washington County, said she’s “honored” to be accepted into Ivy Tech, and now feels that her dreams are coming true.
“I am just getting ready to do things on my own,” she said.
Ivy Power will provide social experiences for the student participants, who will receive support from peer mentors. After completing the program, they will receive a certificate and graduate with the Sellersburg campus’ other students.
“Just having the same opportunities as anyone else is very important. And the more that we see individuals with disabilities in a college setting and in the workplace and out living in the world, just being treated as a human being, the more humanity is going to keep getting better and better,” said Down Syndrome of Louisville Engagement Director Carly Riggs.
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