A&M-San Antonio launches pilot to support students with intellectual learning disabilities

A&M-San Antonio launches pilot to support students with intellectual learning disabilities

— $2.1 million grant from DOE to support the program

For some young adults with intellectual disabilities their dream to earn a university degree is insurmountable due to limited resources and support. An innovative program at Texas A&M University-San Antonio for high school graduates will address this need for five local high school graduates from Burleson with support of a $2.1 million grant from U.S. Department of Education and a donation from a private donor. More than 7 million students across the nation face such challenges, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s “The Condition of Education Report”

A&M-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development through the Transition University for Career Advancement and Successful Adulthood (TU CASA) project is helping to bridge an equity gap for individuals with intellectual disabilities by providing a pathway for them to engage in a higher education experience or get the support they need to successfully navigate a degree program.

A&M-San Antonio in partnership with seven south San Antonio school districts creates equitable opportunities across districts, enhances social mobility, income growth and career readiness for south Bexar County. The partnership also tackles persistent challenges across the region such as the digital divide according to Dr. Carl Sheperis, A&M San Antonio’s Dean of the College of Education.

“The TU CASA program will provide individual support and services for academic and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in academic courses, extracurricular activities and other aspects of attending college,” said Sheperis. “Addressing critical educational needs in our community and closing the equity gap leads to improved employment outcomes and overall quality of life for these young adults.”

Dylan Salazar signs his acceptance into the TU CASA program during a ceremony at the Burleson School Dec. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Edgewood ISD.

Five students who graduated from Burleson School for Innovation and Education (Burleson) in South San Antonio began their academic experience this month. The five student, ages 19 to 21, share the common dream of having the opportunity to attend a university. The students have faced educational challenges but, in some cases, medical challenges as well.

Dylan Salazar, Alezandro Mauricia, Gabrielle Eady, Nicholas Lopez, and Yxaiah Gomez were the first group of students selected to participate in the TU CASA program.

Dylan Salazar, 19, has a goal of joining recreational sports and is still undecided on his employment path after completing the program. He will graduate from the program the same semester as his brother, a student at Texas A&M-College Station.

Gabrielle Eady, one of the five Burleson students who began the TU CASA program this month, signs her acceptance Dec. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Edgewood ISD.

First-generation college student, Gabrielle Eady, 20, is looking forward to meeting new people and experiencing college. Working at the coffee shop on campus will help prepare Eady for a career in retail after completing the program.

Alezandro Mauricio, 21, wants to join gaming at Texas A&M-San Antonio and hopes to work as a school bus aide after graduating from the program. His sister graduated from Texas A&M-San Antonio in 2019.

Since middle school, Nicholas Lopez, 21, has dreamt of attending a university. He has an unstoppable will and determination, pushing through recent obstacles on his path to accomplish his goals.

Yxaiah Gomez, 21, is a first-generation college student. He is interested in joining recreational sports. Gomez has worked at the 13th floor, a haunted house in San Antonio, and hopes to work full time at Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

“We’re excited our students and families have this opportunity,” said Sarah Minner, special education 18+ transition coordinator at Burleson School.

Salazar, Mauricio, Eady, Lopez, and Gomez will forge a path for their fellow students to follow during their year and a half at Texas A&M-San Antonio. During their time at the University, the students will take two courses per semester as well as continue to develop employment and independent living skills. Upon completing the TU CASA program, students will be awarded a University Career Experience Certificate.

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