Last year, eight students stepped onto UT’s campus to find out what college life is like. It was an opportunity that these students may not have experienced without UT’s FUTURE program.
The two-year post-secondary certificate is designed for students 18 to 29 years of age who have intellectual disabilities and have not received a regular high school diploma. It allows them to take classes and work on campus to increase their employment opportunities.
This year, the students were able to experience college life in different ways, from attending classes and working with an educational mentor, to working at internships on campus.
Each student completed two internships in various departments including Athletics and Theatre. Others worked with the University Bookstore, the UT Outdoor Program, the Early Learning Center, and the Instructional Services Center.
Students also worked to promote the FUTURE program by writing, acting, and filming two videos to share with potential participants. Students took time out of their holiday break to return to their high schools and encourage other students with intellectual disabilities to apply to the program. They also made presentations about their experiences at the Tennessee Disability Conference.
UT students serving as educational mentors are key to the program. They help FUTURE students feel like a part of campus by doing simple things like having lunch with them, going to sporting events, and painting the rock. The mentors also participate in core classes as peer instructors, assistants, and students.
The program has met with great success. The first group of FUTURE students is working with a local employment program and their rehabilitation counselors to gain employment by May 2013.
One student is working toward certified nursing assistant credentials.The program is seeking to become a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) program. Approval as a CTP will lead to eligibility for student financial aid. UT welcomed its second class of FUTURE students in August.
For more information, visit futureut.utk.edu.