(Contest Nominee) Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education Creating Pathway for Those with Intellectual Disabilities

IN! is one of seven nonprofits nominated in Citywide Banks CHARITY HAND-UP CONTEST taking place on Facebook from November 2-22, 2015. The public is invited to vote for a nominee and enter prize drawings. $8,000 in cash donations will be split between the charities based on the voting results. CLICK HERE for voting page.

Colorado regularly ranks as one of the top 10 fittest and most beautiful states to live. But when it comes to providing higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, it doesn’t rank at all. In fact, according to Mary Holm, Assistant Director for the Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education (IN!), Colorado is way behind the eight ball as compared to the rest of the United States.

“Colorado is one of only a handful of states that does not have any universities or community colleges that allow students with intellectual disabilities access to real college classes,” says Holm.

A pathway, or program, for students with intellectual disabilities would allow these students a way to attend a Colorado community college or university with appropriate adjustments and support.

These students wouldn’t be required to take the ACT/SAT or Community College Placement Exam for entrance. They would take a lighter class load and audit those classes. Additionally, there would be a greater focus on job readiness and skills, and assistance for students choosing to live on campus.

Students who have attended such programs in other states have employment rates over 70% upon graduation. Without a college experience, less than 30% of this student population is employed. And employment is the difference between living an independent life and making a contribution to one’s community versus being dependent on state and community resources. IN! conducted a statewide survey and learned that 75% were interested in a path to college.

IN! was founded by a group of concerned parents, educators and other professionals who are passionate about building a better life for our citizens with intellectual disabilities. Its leadership team includes representatives from Easter Seals, JFK Partners, Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association and Arc. The nonprofit’s mission is to collaborate with local colleges and universities in Colorado to create and fund the development of inclusive post-secondary opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities.

In 2008, Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that improved access to post-secondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. As a result, about 44 states around the country have since added a pathway to schools in their state for these students.

South Carolina, for example, has six colleges that provide a pathway for this demographic of students. California has 20! Why doesn’t Colorado have any?

It’s mostly a funding issue, says Holm. For one, Colorado ranks 47th in the country for funding higher education. But that doesn’t mean schools are not interested.

“We’ve spoken to over 10 Colorado schools and, without exception, they think the idea is great but don’t know how to do it or how to pay for it.”

And although a student in Colorado can apply to attend a college out of state, it’s not ideal. “If a student starts to build roots, job connections and community in a different state, it is all lost when they move back home and they have to start all over. And many parents are not comfortable sending their children so far away from home,” explains Holm.

IN!’s goals are two-fold. The first goal is to develop a sustainable, inclusive pathway program for Colorado colleges and universities to adopt. The second is to help pay for the development of these pathways on college campuses. After the program is established, it becomes sustainable through the  students’ tuition.

By attending conferences and speaking to colleges around the country that offer different pathway programs, IN!’s leadership group has developed the model they think will work for Colorado schools. They are currently in serious discussions with two schools. But, they are still short on the necessary funding.

“These pathways are important to make the lives of these students comparable to the lives of people without disabilities. If they can go to college and get a better job, it makes them more productive members of society and reduces the amount of government assistance they’ll need. It’s just the right thing to do,” says Holm.

IN! is one of seven Colorado nonprofits nominated in the Citywide Banks Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place November 2-22, 2015.

If IN! Receives Most Votes in Contest
A $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks would go toward funding the first roll-out of the program, and most likely be used toward a matching grant campaign in order to maximize the donation.

For more information on ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.InclusiveHigherEd.org or follow IN! on Facebook at Facebook.com/inclusivehighered.

How to Give IN! Association a Hand-Up

  1. VOTE FOR IN! on contest voting page at Citywide Banks Facebook page
  2. POST A COMMENT about IN! on the Citywide Banks Facebook page
  3. SHARE posts about this contest with your family, friends, and coworkers
  4. “LIKE” IN!’s Facebook Page (the charity nominee with biggest % increase in Facebook followers during contest will receive an extra $500 donation from Citywide Banks)

How to Cast Your Vote – November 2-22, 2015
The contest is open to the general public within Colorado (non-customers welcome to participate; no purchase necessary). The easiest way to vote is online by clicking the “Charity Contest” tab on the Citywide Banks Facebook page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to “like” the bank’s Facebook page to submit a vote/entry online. One vote/entry per person is permitted during the 21-day contest. After voting on Facebook, users can use the sharing buttons to easily invite their Facebook friends to vote for their favorite charity. There is even an added bonus prize drawing for those voters that post the contest on their own Facebook timeline.

About the Citywide Banks Charity Hand-Up Contests
Citywide Banks is a 52-year-old, family operated, Colorado focused business bank that is passionate about supporting Colorado charities. Through our Charity Hand-Up Contests, seven Colorado causes are nominated by our employees to be showcased through social media and in our branches. Then, we ask the community to vote on Facebook for their favorite. Based on final vote standings, Citywide Banks splits $8,000 in donations. The charity with the most votes receives the top $5,000 donation. Contest voters can also enter to win great prizes, including dinner for two at a top Denver restaurant. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here. More contest details are at CitywideBanks.com/contest/.



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