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OSU announces Opportunity Orange Scholars, postsecondary program for individuals with intellectual, developmental disabilities

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Media Contact: Christy Lang | Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-9740 |

Oklahoma State University is raising start-up funds to help launch Opportunity Orange Scholars, a new postsecondary education program for students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Opportunity Orange Scholars is designed to include young adults 18 to 26 who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and do not meet OSU’s admission criteria for degree-seeking students.

“The Opportunity Orange Scholars program represents a wonderful and meaningful expansion in the university’s commitment to sustaining and enriching our culture of inclusion,” OSU Vice President for Institutional Diversity Dr. Jason Kirksey said. “Creating a program designed to specifically and intentionally provide an opportunity for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to pursue a postsecondary educational experience is consistent with the vision of the OSU Division of Institutional Diversity. We are excited to help support and sponsor this program at OSU.”

Students admitted to Opportunity Orange Scholars can pursue a two-year, non-degree certificate program with an additional, non-degree advanced certification program option. OSU plans to welcome the first cohort of students to the Stillwater campus in August 2022.

“The Cowboy Family believes that everyone should have the opportunity to take advantage of all that higher education has to offer,” OSU Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Doug Hallenbeck said. “Opportunity Orange Scholars will add a great deal of value to Oklahoma State, and as a leading land-grant institution, we are fully committed to this program, its participants and their families.”

OSU is collaborating with  LeadLearnLive, an Oklahoma organization that raises awareness and support for postsecondary opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The nonprofit has committed more than $300,000 toward Opportunity Orange Scholars over the next three years. On June 3, Julie Lackey, founder and executive director, along with the LeadLearnLive board, presented a check for the initial installment to the program leaders in Stillwater. 

“We are so excited about our partnership with OSU and seeing years of work toward this possibility become a reality,” Lackey said. “Opportunity Orange Scholars expands on our mission to provide high-quality, fully inclusive post-secondary opportunities to students with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities in our state. We are confident that this program will be one of the best in the nation and prepare young adults to live their best life.”

Opportunity Orange Scholars builds on the work of Dr. Jennifer Jones and Dr. Kami Gallus, faculty in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and co-directors of the  Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Opportunity Orange Scholars is a natural extension of research and community programming at the institute where the mission is to learn from and work alongside individuals and their families.

“At the heart of our work at the Institute for Developmental Disabilities, we seek to build relationships that bring individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities together to live, learn, work and play,” Jones said. “The planning for a postsecondary education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the OSU campus has been a long time in the making and is key to continuing our mission as a land-grant university.”

Opportunity Orange Scholars will align with requirements for future accreditation of a Comprehensive Transition Program. The four primary components of the program are independent living, social skills, academics and career development. Students will live on campus, take functional academic courses, engage in social and physical fitness activities and participate in internships.

“Many hands, minds and hearts have gone into developing a meaningful and inclusive postsecondary program,” Human Development and Family Science department head Dr. Sissy Osteen said. “Opportunity Orange Scholars can build diversity and greater understanding of experiences across the lifespan. We are so grateful to have this program in the department and look forward to the positive impact it will have.”

To learn more about Opportunity Orange Scholars, visit  For information on how to support Opportunity Orange Scholars, contact Rachel Tribble at the OSU Foundation (


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