University Welcomes Students with Intellectual Disabilities - Diverse Health

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University Welcomes Students with Intellectual Disabilities



ELGIN, Ill. — What began in 2015 as a meeting of support between Judson alumnae Gayle Gianopulos ’88 and Nancy Binger ’97 – two mothers of children with Down syndrome – has transformed into an amazing journey. That journey has now launched a new program that will provide a collegiate experience at Judson University for students with intellectual disabilities.
Judson University has announced that it will begin RISE (Road to Independent Living, Spiritual Formation and Employment), a post-secondary certificate of completion program for students with intellectual disabilities during the 2017-2018 school year.

The two-year program will provide students with a unique opportunity to experience residential college life in a Christian community and develop independent living and work skills through various opportunities.

Gianopulos, who graduated from Judson in 1988 with a degree in psychology, has four children, two of whom have Down syndrome. When her oldest daughter, who has Down syndrome, entered her teen years, Gianopulos started thinking about post-secondary options for her. As she searched for a program, she discovered that there were few faith-based programs in the nation and none in the Chicago area.

That’s when she approached her alma mater, Judson University, to start a program to serve students with intellectual disabilities. She was introduced to Judson’s vice president of enrollment and strategic planning, Nancy Binger, who had just received the news that her son would be born with Down syndrome. The women developed a friendship and Gianopulos presented her vision to Binger, who felt that it fit perfectly with Judson’s mission and strategy for diversity and enrollment growth.

“This has been such an amazing journey as we have blended something that is so personal yet at the same time will benefit the university in so many ways,” Binger said. “Being able to provide a Christian college experience for students who may not have thought college was an option is rewarding. I look forward to seeing these students succeed while the whole Judson community grows as well.”

The first cohort will begin August 2017, and the application deadline will be January 31, 2017. Applicants must be 18-25 years old with an intellectual disability and possess practical reading and writing skills and a high school diploma (or equivalent). The RISE curriculum will follow the typical academic year.

Kathryn Lambert is the new RISE director. She comes to this position with an extensive background in marketing, corporate relationship building and support and leadership of programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Families interested in learning more about Judson’s new two-year RISE Program can sign up to attend RISE Preview Day events on the Elgin campus (1151 N. State St., Elgin). Each Preview Day event will include informational meetings, chapel, lunch and a campus tour. Preview Days are scheduled for November 14 and January 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Personal tours are also available by appointment.)