“Inclusive Higher Ed” programs opening doors to young adults with intellectual and developmental disability

Colton acceptance letter
Colton Vazquez with his acceptance letter from Slippery Rock University.

Recently, I wrote an article about “inclusive higher ed” programs for Public Source, a digital publication that covers the Pittsburgh region. The focus of the article is Colton Vazquez, a senior at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, who has decided to attend the “Rock Life” program at Slippery Rock University.

I first heard about Colton’s college aspirations last year when his mother, Candy Vazquez, posted on Facebook about their visits to Slippery Rock, Millersville and E. Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania, as well as Western Carolina and the University of Central Florida. Having taken my son, Mark, to see  Millersville’s inclusive program last year as well, I was curious about Colton’s journey.

The number of inclusive higher ed programs is growing in Pennsylvania. There are now ten (see complete list in article). A decade ago, there were two. Each program is a little different from the others. Most are defined as non-degree programs for students with intellectual or developmental disability. The Think College website is the national resource for these programs. In Pennsylvania, the Dream Partnership and PA Inclusive Higher Education Consortium are the go-to’s for info.

Even though my son decided to keep attending Community College of Allegheny County rather than transfer to another school, I’m glad we visited the inclusive higher ed program at Millersville and learned more about the opportunities and support they offer.

Here in Western Pennsylvania, there are just two inclusive higher ed programs — Slippery Rock (Lawrence County) and  Mercyhurst (Erie). Duquesne University’s program is expected to start in the next year or two.

We need more colleges in Western Pennsylvania to open their doors to all who want to learn. I hope the colleges are listening.

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