SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Many young adults with disabilities aren’t confident heading into college, which can lead to missing out on a job or an education. But a new program at Evangel University university is trying to change that.
Evangel is partnering with a nonprofit program called Achieve of Southwest Missouri, which helps students develop job skills and experience campus life. Lynn Neidigh is Achieve’s board president and founder.
“Our mission is to bring life readiness skills to individuals and young adults with disabilities,” Neidigh said. “We have a unique combination of classroom instruction as well as worksite internships here on campus by developing partnerships with various departments on campus. It’s like a mini-city. We’re able to match our student’s interests with various departments and their tasks on campus.”
Achieve raised around $30,000 in grants and donations for start-up funds and its curriculum. The one-year course evaluates how a student is doing through self-determination, life management and career preparation. It costs $7,500 per student, which includes a meal card and other campus fees.
The program serves 18- to 25-year-olds. Some have high-functioning autism, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There isn’t a specific requirement, but an applicant will be asked if they had an individualized educational plan (IEP) and behavior plan in school.
Eight students are in Achieve’s very first class.
“We kept it small on purpose so that we could learn from our first year,” Neidigh said. “But we are looking to grow the program next year. The need in the community is very strong. We are confident in our Project Life curriculum and showing the growth and development of our individuals, which will motivate our students and parents to enroll their students.”
Students in the program get classroom training hours, a current Evangel student as a mentor and volunteer opportunities on campus. They are encouraged to go to chapel and get involved in clubs and organizations.
“Our students are enjoying the campus life,” Neidigh said. “They love navigating the campus, socializing with all of the athletes and now with all of the new students. We have just gotten a great reception from our Achieve students as well as from the Evangel students. It’s been a long road, but it has definitely paid off.”
Achieve will have an open house on Evangel’s campus on November 3, 2021. More details are soon to come, but those interested in learning more about the program and possibly applying for next school year are invited.
Admission applications for the 2022-23 school year are already available. Tuition and fees may change, but you can apply by clicking here.