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Six Months In: A Look At New UMSL Program For Students With Intellectual, Developmental Disabilities

This past fall, a new educational program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities began at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The program, called SUCCEED, is a two-year residential program designed to help students build the skills needed to either find a job or enroll in a degree-seeking program.

The program is the brainchild of Deborah Baldini, the associate dean  for the College of Arts and Sciences/Continuing Education at UMSL, and the president and CEO of St. Louis Arc, Kathy Meath.

“What we had envisioned was a program that would take advantage of the way college and the college experience helps any student. And that is - you learn not just content knowledge from your classes that prepare you for a degree, and later a job, but you learn to interact with a broad spectrum of people, you are exposed to different ideas, you learn to live independently from your family – you have to, for example, learn how to do laundry,” Baldini said.

With that goal in mind, students in the SUCCEED program live on campus in residential housing. St. Louis Arc provided training on intellectual and developmental disabilities for residential life staff and campus security.

The Arc also helped select and modify the curriculum for the program and continue to serve as consultants for SUCCEED.

According to St. Louis Arc’s vice president of support services, Mark Keeley, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities can feel at loose ends after graduating high school.

“There isn’t really a lot there,” Keeley said. “The options are you can get a job through competitive employment, you can get supportive employment, or you can work at a sheltered workshop, or you can go into a day program. What has been happening because there aren’t a lot of those options out there is you see a lot of parents who have to quit their jobs when somebody turns 21, because they’re staying at home with their son or daughter.”

SUCCEED is designed to help students grow towards greater independence, by developing such skills as time management and money management.

“We have increasing access to inclusive classes,” Baldini said, starting out with the one hour Freshman Experience class required of all freshmen and moving towards classes in each student’s interest area. SUCCEED students also participate in internships. Right now they are all on-campus internships, but the program is looking for off-campus internships to offer students in the future.

For SUCCEED student Tyler Fuchs, the program has given him a chance to make new friends – including joining a fraternity.

He wants to go onto earn a degree in communications after finishing SUCCEED.

“I want to live on my own and do my life. I’m really looking forward to what my future holds for me,” Fuchs said.

He said that he would have been able to live alone without SUCCEED, but that “from where I’ve started to now, I don’t think I would have had the capabilities that I have now” without the program.

According to Baldini, there are more than 2.5 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the country, but only 140 post-secondary programs targeted for those individuals. Of those 140 programs, only about 40 are residential.

“Without the right kind of preparation they are people that need support for the rest of their lives,” Baldini said, which is why she thinks residential programs like SUCCEED are important.

“SUCCEED really targets life experiences and building of independence in a variety of ways – network building, preparing for jobs, learning to take care of yourself …. [it] really offers people the opportunity of having a life after the program, of having a job, being part of a community, becoming a taxpayer, contributing to the region,” she said.

Related Information

A post-secondary program providing a post-secondary educational program for students aged 18 - 25 with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
(314) 516-5911
UMSL Website

St. Louis Arc
A non-profit organization that that provides support and services to more than 3,500 adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families, throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.
(314) 569-2211
St. Louis ARC Website

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