L.I.V.E.S. Program special education teacher Danielle Everts celebrates with the first graduates from the program. From left: Justine DeLuca, Kaleb King, Thomas Ruf, Hannah Brown, and Caitlyn Friedman.
GENESEO, N.Y. - SUNY Geneseo recently graduated the first group of students from its L.I.V.E.S. Program (Learning Independence, Vocational and Educational Skills). The program is a four-year transitional experience on the Geneseo campus that provides both school-age and adult students with intellectual or other developmental disabilities the opportunity to learn independence, vocational and educational skills.
"These graduates have come a long way the past four years," said Elizabeth Hall, assistant professor of special education at Geneseo and director of the L.I.V.E.S. program. "We are trying to mirror a college experience for them as much as possible and we have seen them grow tremendously."
The five students, all from New York, received program certificates during Geneseo's School of Education convocation May 11. The four students from the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming County program receiving certificates in the school-age program were Hannah Brown from Lansing; Justine DeLuca from Warsaw; Kaleb King from Geneseo; and Thomas Ruf from Avon. Also receiving a certificate in the adult-age program was Caitlyn Friedman from Pavilion, a student in the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. Several of the graduates have obtained jobs as a result of their success.
The L.I.V.E.S. program is funded through a collaborative partnership with SUNY Geneseo, the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office. The Geneseo program is the only one in New York serving both school-age and adult students.
"I couldn't be more proud of what these students have accomplished, it's definitely inspirational," said Danielle Everts, a special education teacher in the L.I.V.E.S. program. "We all bring varied abilities to our lives and build on them. In the L.I.V.E.S. program, we focus on students' abilities."
The program is accepting between eight and 12 new students each year for both the school-age and adult-age programs. The students must meet eligibility criteria for services from the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities and must live in Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming or Yates Counties. Hall said the program started five years ago with four students. Next fall, she anticipates 29 students in the program.
The students participate in individual assessments to ascertain career interests, learning styles and social and independent living skills. The students are taught on the SUNY Geneseo campus and can begin auditing college courses at Geneseo beginning their sophomore year as part of their plan of study.
Hall said having the students in college courses has received positive feedback from faculty members and often allows other students in the courses to realize that students with disabilities can make valuable contributions to class discussions.
"I see this program growing because of its success," said Hall. "I would like to see a residential component added for juniors and seniors to truly give them a full college experience."
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