A&M-San Antonio receives $2.1M Department of Education grant

New initiative will address critical needs for students with intellectual disabilities

A $2.1 million grant from the federal Department of Education to Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) will fund a unique program to help bridge the equity gap for students with intellectual disabilities and boost their ability to either earn a college degree or complete a college experience. The grant will support the creation and launch of the Transition University for Career Advancement and Successful Adulthood (TU CASA) post-secondary program. Currently, out of 170 institutions of higher education in the state of Texas, only three universities offer post-secondary education opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

A&M-Antonio will be one of only four Texas higher education institutions to provide support and services for academic and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in academic courses, extracurricular activities and other aspects of attending college. The program will address critical needs in the community and close the existing equity gap, leading to improved employment outcomes and overall quality of life for young adults with intellectual disabilities and individual support and services for academic and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in academic courses, extracurricular activities and other aspects of attending A&M-San Antonio. In addition to the $2,107,335 (75.6 percent of funding) from the Department of Education governmental funding, the University will match with $680,414 (24.4 percent) in funding.

“The TU CASA project helps 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,” said Dr. Carl Sheperis, dean of COEHD. “Regardless of the pathway, this grant will have a positive impact on the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities.”

TU CASA is a culturally responsive program that will address the needs of underrepresented groups as well as offer educational advancement opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students, students from low-income families and first-generation college students. The project is being led by Sheperis and COEHD faculty in the Department of Educator and Leadership Preparation: Dr. Melissa Jozwiak, department chair and associate professor; Dr. Mariya Davis, assistant professor; Dr. Eric López, professor; and Dr. Gavin Watts, assistant professor.

TU CASA is a culturally responsive program that will address the needs of underrepresented groups as well as offer educational advancement opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students, students from low-income families and first-generation college students, according to Sheperis.

The project will integrate work with school districts in south Bexar County that are part of the ASPIRE partnership. More specifically, the project establishes a bridge between the Burleson School for Innovation and Engagement (Edgewood ISD) and the A&M-San Antonio campus. This collaborative effort includes partnerships with numerous entities and will strengthen the capacity to serve for partners such as Guide Dogs of Texas and AgriLife Support Services, and promote workforce development with partners including the Charles Butt Foundation, Alamo Area Council of Governments, The Arc of San Antonio, Alamo Workforce Solutions and Lancer Worldwide.

Launched in 2019, ASPIRE (A&M-San Antonio & South Bexar County ISDs Partnership to Impact Regional Equity and Excellence) is the collaborative effort between A&M-San Antonio and seven south Bexar County ISDs (East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, Southside and Southwest) that is helping create equitable opportunities across districts and enhance social mobility, income growth and career readiness for south Bexar County and the greater San Antonio area.

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