Colorado movement pursues goal of higher education for those with intellectual disabilities
Members of IN! hosted an information night for prospective parents and students at the home of Tammy Abramovitz in January. Members of the Board of IN! presented information about the tremendous advances that the group has made in bringing about the reality of inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disabilities. Pictured from left to right are Beth Leon, Ruth Newell, Mary Holm, and Tammy Abramovitz.
Article and photo by Amy Shanahan
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
A very important movement is taking place across the country to provide opportunities for intellectually disabled students to attend college. Thanks to a group of parents from all over the state, including Castle Pines, Colorado is finally making progress towards this momentous goal.
There are currently over two hundred programs at colleges and universities throughout the United States that allow intellectually disabled students to further their education and achieve gainful employment after graduation. Colorado is one of only six states that does not offer these opportunities. The Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education (IN!) means to change that by the Fall of 2016, thus allowing these students in Colorado to attend college without the burden of out of state tuition costs. IN! is a non-profit organization made up of wonderful parents and community leaders who are working tirelessly to make inclusive higher education a reality for students who are motivated, competent, and interested in furthering themselves.
Castle Pines resident Tammy Abramovitz is an active member of IN! who focuses her energy on community outreach. “Being the mother of a child with cognitive disabilities, I wanted my son to have the same opportunity as any other kid in his class and I didn’t necessarily want to send him out of state to do it,” explained Abramovitz. “I think a state as progressive and as educated as Colorado should examine this issue and make the opportunities available. I am thrilled that there is a groundswell moving this initiative forward.”
The volunteers at IN! have spent numerous hours visiting schools throughout the country to see what programs are most successful and the accumulated data is astounding. In 2012, only 34 percent of all people with intellectual disabilities were employed with only 18 percent serving in a competitive work environment. The job placement for students successfully completing a college program is 70 percent, all within a competitive work environment.
The goal of IN! is to immerse students with intellectual disabilities into the typical college environment by fostering academic growth, social development, independence, and career advancement. Inclusion has tremendous benefits, not only for those with intellectual disabilities, but also for the students and teachers around them.
Gina, a college student from Colorado who attends school at Eastern New Mexico University in an inclusion program remarked, “My favorite part about attending college is meeting new friends, and I love my child care class. I also like living in the dorm and eating in the cafeteria.”
Abramovitz and the other members of IN! are encouraged by the tremendous response that IN! has received from several Colorado colleges and universities. They feel positive about the goal of making these programs available in our state by 2016. Abramovitz stated, “I am thrilled and honored to be moving this initiative forward on behalf of the intellectually disabled community in Colorado.”