Students with learning or developmental disabilities will soon enjoy collegiate experiences at The University of Georgia with the launch of its’ new post secondary special education program, Destination Dawgs.
Starting in the spring of 2017, The College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Institute on Human Development and Disability will house the program. The courses offered will implement life skills and focus on preparing students to transition into adulthood while also providing a collegiate experience.
The University will use on campus housing with in class peer mentors to give students a full collegiate experience. After five semesters, students will receive a certificate of completion from Georgia.
The program began as an initiative by The Student Government Association. According to Darby Miller, Treasurer of SGA, the program will add even more diversity to Georgia’s campus and will create conversations that support an open mindset.
“My goal for the student body is just to welcome the students with open arms,” Miller said. “Because that is how students welcome other students to the Bulldog nation.”
Another group that helps to reduce the stigma surrounding special education is Extra Special People. ESP is located in Watkinsville, GA and serves over 150 students with disabilities.
ESP also works to cultivate life skills among the disabled through special events, camps, and after school programs. They rely heavily on donations of money and time at ESP and with their low budget, they can’t always reach everyone they would like to. However, with the new Destination Dawgs will receive funding for five years from the U.S. Department of Education through the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities grant. This grant will increase reach for the special needs community in Athens.
Allison White is a student studying special education who works at ESP and believes that the new program would be instrumental for her ESP students.
“At least one fourth of our participants are college-aged,” White said. “I think our participants will have a better future with employment opportunities [through the program].”
While the program is still in its’ development stage, SGA continues to promote awareness and raise funds to support the program and its’ future students.
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