Opportunity Orange Scholars opens up new doors
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Media Contact: Christy Lang | Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-9740 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Each year, students with intellectual and/or developmental disability graduate from high school with the hope of attending college.
Oklahoma State University is poised to serve this growing need with Opportunity Orange Scholars, a new postsecondary education program for young adults 18 to 26 that will welcome its first students next fall.
Dr. Jennifer Jones and Dr. Kami Gallus, faculty members in the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Education and Human Sciences, have long focused their teaching and research on serving individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families.
“OSU has worked diligently to be recognized as America’s Healthiest Campus® and a Diversity Champion,” Gallus said. “Yet, we realized a few years ago there was a disconnect when it came to including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our research clearly indicated the need for more opportunities for social inclusion and exercise for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oklahoma.”
The two began developing and implementing community-engaged programs to bring together OSU faculty, students, staff and adult community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities through book clubs, campus walking groups and more.
“We were thrilled and even a bit surprised to see how impactful the programs have been for OSU students and community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities alike,” Jones said.
The continuing, successful programming led to the creation of the Institute for Developmental Disabilities, its mission focused on learning from and serving alongside individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families.
“At the heart of our work, we seek to build relationships that bring individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities together to live, learn, work and play,” Jones said.
Creating a postsecondary education program at OSU for students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities was a natural progression of the Institute’s work, and Jones and Gallus worked closely with partners across the OSU campus to design Opportunity Orange Scholars.
“The planning for this program has been a long time in the making and is key to continuing our mission as a land-grant university,” Jones said.
Students admitted to Opportunity Orange Scholars can pursue a two-year, non-degree certificate with an additional, non-degree advanced certification program option. Full admission criteria is under development and applications for the program will become available in spring 2022.
“The Cowboy family believes that everyone should have the opportunity to take advantage of all that higher education has to offer,” said OSU Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Doug Hallenbeck. “As a leading land-grant institution, we are fully committed to this program, its participants and their families.”
With the four primary components of independent living, social skills, academics and career development, Opportunity Orange Scholars will align with requirements for future accreditation as a Comprehensive Transition Program. Students will live on campus, take functional academic courses, engage in social and physical fitness activities and participate in internships.
"When individuals feel valued, needed, respected and significant, a true sense of belonging occurs.”
- Kami Gallus, Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science
“Opportunity Orange Scholars represent a wonderful and meaningful expansion in the university’s commitment to sustaining and enriching our culture of inclusion,” said OSU Vice President for Institutional Diversity Dr. Jason Kirksey.
Degree-seeking students will benefit from experiences provided by Opportunity Orange Scholars, gaining experience, skills and attitudes to be successful in a more diverse world.
“Many hands, minds and hearts have gone into developing a meaningful and inclusive postsecondary program,” said Human Development and Family Science department head Dr. Sissy Osteen. “Opportunity Orange Scholars can build diversity and greater understanding of experiences across the lifespan.”
“The need to belong is universal. The desire to be included by your community, to have meaningful work, and to share life with people you love and who love you — to belong — are not ‘special needs,’ they are very ordinary needs. When individuals feel valued, needed, respected and significant, a true sense of belonging occurs,” Gallus said.
SUPPORT FOR THE PROGRAM
OSU continues to raise funds for Opportunity Orange Scholars.The university 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.
“We are so excited about our partnership with OSU and seeing years of work toward this possibility become a reality,” said LeadLearnLive founder and executive director Julie Lackey. “We are confident that this program will be one of the best in the nation and prepare young adults to live their best life.”
Story By: Christy Lang | ASPIRE Magazine