Today Magazine Winter 2020 - Page 6

Education for All By: Kirsten Swanson A t its core, Gwynedd Mercy University is an institution that values the dignity and respect of each person and prepares students for meaningful lives in a global society. The recently launched Integrated Studies program underpins the University’s commitment to academic excellence and lifelong learning for all. “GMercyU believes strongly in creating opportunities for all, and fostering an inclusive and welcoming community, all of which aligns with the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy,” Program Coordinator of Integrated Studies Ariana Amaya, OTD, OTR/L said. Integrated Studies is a fully-inclusive, non-degree certificate program on GMercyU’s campus, offering two-year or four-year college experiences for young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (ID/DD) who otherwise could not attend college. Students participating in the program will be active members of the campus community as they will audit college courses, participate in community- based internships, attend sporting events, eat in the dining hall, and have the opportunity to live in the residence halls. Students will earn a non-degree certificate of Integrated Studies and a university transcript that includes the courses and internships completed as well as a portfolio of highlighted work. GMercyU is one of only 84, four-year 4 TODAY “ GMercyU believes strongly in creating opportunities for all, and fostering an inclusive and welcoming community, all of which aligns with the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy. universities to offer housing as an option for students with intellectual/ developmental disabilities. Almost 69.7% of all young adults in the United States attend college following high school graduation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), and have more than 7,000 institutions from which to choose (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). By comparison, 28.7% of young adults with ID enroll in college post-high school, with only 278 options to choose from across the nation (Newman et al., 2011; Think College, 2018). “The community’s need for additional programming for this population is evident, and the University embraced the initiative from the very beginning as it aligned with its Mercy mission,” Dr. Amaya said. GMercyU received a start-up grant from the Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (PIHEC) to launch the program. PIHEC is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the acquisition of a Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant. The Program welcomed its first two students in January 2020, Nick McGee and Jasmine Hall. The two are enrolled in courses and have quickly become a part of the campus community. ” - Dr. Ariana Amaya Nick and Jasmine are paired with peer mentors, fellow GMercyU students who provide support both in and out of the classroom and help them transition to life on campus. “Being a part of this program is an opportunity to continue the mission of inclusion on this campus. The impact that this program will make on the GMercyU community and the workforce is limitless because of the value of inclusion and neurodiversity,” said peer mentor Andrew Harbaugh '20. Nick often talks about the significance of paving the way for students with disabilities at the University. “Once a Griffin, always a Griffin,” Nick said. Jasmine says that Integrated Studies will help her to “be successful and gain knowledge every day.” Learn more about Gwynedd Mercy University’s Integrated Studies Program.