The D.R.E.A.M. Partnership has received a $1.35 million, three-year grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). According to D.R.E.A.M. Partnership Executive Director Sherri Landis, the award will provide even more opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to live their dream by attending postsecondary education opportunities, which lead to competitive employment.

The award, ACES (Access College-Employment Success) Project, is designed to increase the number of college-based programs, which lead to competitive employment, for young adults with intellectual disabilities across the Commonwealth. Programs must provide a mix of credit or noncredit offerings, independent or supported dormitory options, and extracurricular activities that provide accessible, integrated and developmental opportunities. The D.R.E.A.M. Partnership is currently working to establish a network of colleges who offer a certificate program.

“The funds target transitional programs at two- and four-year colleges as well as trade and technical schools,” said Landis. “Those programs must, however, focus on not only academics, but also social activities and employment experiences through work-based learning and internships, as well as independent living.”

Landis also notes that other experiences such as living in residence halls and daily interaction with non-disabled classmates has also been shown to lead to better interpersonal skills, better academic performance, and ultimately, independence.

“We want to let parents, educators, administrators and transition coordinators across the state know that college is indeed a realistic option for these students,” said Landis. “With the help of this grant, we can help more of those students live their dream, after high school and beyond.”