Students With Disabilities Attend College -- And Graduate

First to graduate from this school's program for students with intellectual challenges

Most people with intellectual challenges wouldn't even dream of going to college. But a group of students at the University of Central Florida not only dreamed it, they did it.

The Orlando Sentinel covered it when the first group of students completed UCF's Inclusive Education Services program and received their certificates this week. Among them was Patricia Moody, whose mother admitted she was nervous when she dropped off her daughter four years ago. Patricia has Down Syndrome. "As parents, we were very happy this opportunity came up for Patricia but this is a big, huge, campus and we were afraid of letting go," Nancy Moody said.

Students participate in all campus activities, like clubs.

Students in the program don't get bachelors bachelor's degrees, although they can take regular UCF courses, not for credit. Instead they take courses designed to prepare them for their adult lives and careers and receive a credential designed specifically for them. They love it, as they expressed in this video on the school's Facebook page:

Many of the students live on campus and participate in clubs and activities with other UCF students. They'll have the opportunity to walk in the university-wide commencement next month.

"It's really hard to put into words what this opportunity means for these students and their parents." Adam Meyer, director of Student Accessibility Services

The Sentinel says nationally, a growing number of colleges and universities are welcoming students with intellectual disabilities. More than 200 campuses offer programs designed for them, according to Think College, part of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Some students plan to take their certificates and enter the workforce.

Some of the UCF grads told the Sentinel they already have jobs lined up. Student Matthew Ortiz plans to stay in Orlando and work in a cafeteria at a local charter school. Patricia Moody will move back with her parents to discover what's next, hopefully, she says, a job working with law enforcement doing something that involves helping people with special needs.

(Images: UCF Inclusive Education Services Facebook page )

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