West Chester University Opens Doors to Students With Intellectual Disabilities

July 17, 2018

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West Chester University (PA) is launching a pilot program this fall for students with intellectual disabilities to pursue a full college experience. The Real Achievement Matters (RAM) initiative will provide the opportunity for students to learn, live, and interact with others on campus, while supporting and accommodating their needs.

More and more colleges are creating inclusive options for students with intellectual disabilities, as postsecondary educational experiences can greatly increase employment outcomes and self-empowerment for such students. West Chester University touts its RAM initiative as designed to develop students who are employable, self-learners and life-long learners, socially effective, and healthy and happy, and who have independent living skills and a high level of participation in their communities. It was created through funds from the DREAM Partnership, which helps develop postsecondary opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities in Pennsylvania.

RAM students and intern at West Chester University
Pictured at West Chester University from left to right are Emily Scott, RAM Initiative student; Ethan Wasserman, RAM Initiative intern; Nate Seagraves, RAM Initiative student. Photo by Erica C. Thompson and used with permission.

The RAM initiative is a two-year program in which students enroll full-time and audit classes. As Monica Lepore, a faculty member on the initiative’s committee, told the Daily Local News, “In a typical week they will have an internship on campus, one intro class then two classes related to what they’re interested in.”

Two students have been admitted to the program for its pilot year, with hopes to admit two to three students the next year and expand up to ten students over the next five years.

RAM initiative students and staff
Pictured at West Chester University from left to right are Professor of Kinesiology Monica Lepore; Emily Scott, RAM Initiative student; Nate Seagraves, RAM Initiative student; Associate Professor of Special Education Claire Verden; Ethan Wasserman, RAM Initiative intern. Photo by Erica C. Thompson and used with permission.

—Carly O’Connell

At a Glance

Member Institution: West Chester University

Initiative: Real Achievement Matters (RAM)

Goal: “Provide inclusive post-secondary education to students with intellectual disabilities, who meet certain criteria, in order to develop citizens who are independent and economically self-sufficient and to meet the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.”

Become a member: As a member of ACE, you join nearly 1,800 organizations that collectively promote, protect and advocate for students, faculty and administrators in higher education. ACE is the most visible and influential higher education association in the nation, and we are at the center of federal policy debates concerning legislation that affects campuses across the country. See more on the ACE website.

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