School/College Partnership will Benefit Students with Intellectual Disabilities from Lawrence and Methuen
Northern Essex Community College has received a $105,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education (EOE) to support the development of an Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Program, which will give students ages 18 to 21 with intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorder the opportunity to take college courses for credit or audit and increase their school and work success.
The college is partnering with the Lawrence and Methuen public school districts on this project and six students started classes this semester which began January 20.
Noemi Custodia-Lora, NECC’s executive director of the Lawrence campus, and Susan Martin, NECC’s director of learning accommodations led the planning process for the college. The program, they say, will allow students to more easily associate with their non-disabled peers. As part of the initiative, students will participate in person-centered planning and college courses and may take part in internships, campus events, and more. A student in the program may, for example, enroll in a college-level art course or engage in a campus lecture.
“I think having intellectually disabled students on campus interacting directly with us will help us become more accepting of those we perceive as different; it will help us look at people through different lenses to discover their talents and abilities,” says Custodia-Lora of the new program. “It will make us more human.”
The college community, as a result of the grant, will enhance its mission of offering accessible, high-quality education to all who seek it. Coordinators hope that the program will eventually expand to incorporate other local school districts, including North Andover, Andover, and Newburyport, within the next few years.
NECC’s customized Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative will be called I-WILL (for “I Will Independently Live my Life”). The ICE (Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment) program is already housed in 13 other Massachusetts state colleges and universities.
Governor Charlie Baker has expressed support of the program, applauding its devotion to diversifying state industries: “Increasing the diversity of our workforce to include more young adults with intellectual disabilities complements our administration’s commitment to developing economic vitality,” he said.“The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative is a national model for building learning experiences and academic achievements for lifelong success.”
James Peyser, Massachusetts Secretary of State, agrees. “Creating a variety of career development pathways for all students, including those with intellectual disabilities, is an important priority.”
For more information on the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant, please contact Jillian Knox, I-WILL Program Coordinator/MA Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative, 978 556-3648 or firstname.lastname@example.org