When she started at Montgomery College, Darina Callear could not answer a question aloud in class. But by her graduation ceremony this past spring, Callear gave the longest speech.
Callear is just one of the many successful graduates of the Graduate Transition Program, a learning community for students with developmental disabilities. The objective of the two-year certificate program is to enable students, while in a supportive college environment, to transition to greater independent living through developmentally appropriate educational, vocational, and life-skill services.
Charles Niedner graduated from the program in 2011 and was accepted into NIH’s Project SEARCH, a 30-week internship program dedicated to providing education and training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He now works at the National Institute of Mental Health as an office automation clerk.
“The MC program helped me because it allowed me to learn how to properly learn,” he said. Niedner also said that the program helped him realize that getting a job was a real possibility. “The teachers genuinely seemed to care about my progress in the classes,” he added.
The instructors in the program use hands-on, visual learning tools and group work to help students learn academic and social skills; they also consider the personal learning style of each student.
Karla Nabors, who founded and coordinated the program, says the idea is to provide the full college experience to young adults even if they are not taking traditional credit courses. So, in addition to classes, the program provides participants with social activities and job training. Each cohort consists of 12 to 14 students; Nabors wishes there was room for more.
“When people ask what I do,” says Nabors, “I tell them I change people’s lives. These are families who have always been told no. The assumption is that a person with developmental disabilities isn’t capable. One family was told their daughter would never go to college. She graduated from the program just a few weeks ago.”