‘Empowerment Course’ offers opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities

When Colorado State University’s Center for Community Partnerships (CCP) launches its “Empowerment Course” this fall, it will give young adults with intellectual disabilities a new chance to experience college life, become better self-advocates and prepare for a career path.

ovalThe course was made possible when the center received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education last fall to continue and expand its Opportunity for Postsecondary Success Program in a new initiative called CHOICES (Creating Higher-Education Opportunities for Individualized Career and Employment Success).

About the course

Young adults with disabilities who are between 17 and 26 years old and who may not meet CSU admissions requirements but want something more from their adult/career life are expected to benefit from the two-semester Empowerment Course in several ways. Holly Darnell, one of the instructors, said students will identify their own strengths and weaknesses and set personal goals such as finding a job that’s a good fit for their abilities.

“We also want to give them a taste of the college experience,” said Julia Kothe, CCP assistant director.

The CSU Athletics Department has offered to provide students in the Empowerment Course free tickets to campus sporting events, and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members have volunteered to accompany participants to the contests, according to CCP Director Cathy Schelly.

Key areas

The course focuses on four key areas: self-advocacy, employment, postsecondary education and independent living.

The first semester of the class, offered by the Division of Continuing Education from 10 to noon on Tuesdays and Fridays, will include lecture and lab formats. Students will learn about social norms, how to ask for the things they need, and job-hunting skills such as resume-writing and interviewing, Darnell said. Their second semester will feature an internship, a class at a community college or another step on their chosen career path.

Rams vs. Cowboys Football at Colorado State University“Ultimately, we’re career-focused, so most student goals will involve getting a job, or being well on their way there, such as enrolling in a certificate program needed for a job,” Darnell said.

At the end of the course, the students will have earned 12 continuing education units, a certificate of accomplishment and ongoing support from partnering agencies such as the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Foothills Gateway Inc.

The Poudre School District and Front Range Community College are also participating in the effort, helping the CCP identify candidates for the new course.

Space is available

Darnell said the goal is to have 8 to 10 students in this first class, and slots are still available. Applicants will be considered until the course starts on Aug. 23, but preference will be given to those who apply by July 22. For more information, visit http://col.st/6NAkk, or send email to holly.darnell@colostate.edu or megan.wolff@colostate.edu.

The Center for Community Partnerships is in the Department of Occupational Therapy in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.