SVSU will be implementing a new non-degree program, Think Cardinal, in order to allow students with intellectual disabilities to experience what it is like to achieve a post-secondary education.
The program will become official in the near future.
Currently, there is already a pathway to enrollment for students with intellectual disabilities, but Think Cardinal will help to streamline enrollment for those who choose to participate in the program.
Students will take classes as a course auditor, which allows for greater flexibility in their classes. Instructor permission is necessary to enroll in courses, but that is necessary for any student with a non-degree enrollment status. Students more often than not take one academic course, and the rest of their time is devoted to a non-academic activity. At this point, participating students are doing things such as serving as a photographer for The Valley Vanguard, participating in cheerleading, participating in the band and playing intramural football.
“What I hope that this program will do is allow for people to realize that those with intellectual disabilities are contributing to the campus,” said Ted Lind, associate director of admissions and a program-founding member. “Current students are already demonstrating that while serving invaluable roles as members of the campus community.”
Once Think Cardinal is implemented, the hope is that students will be able to walk at graduation and receive a certificate for their areas studied. Requirements for the program will include two jobs or internships to aid with employability of students, academic credits and extracurricular activities to achieve their certificate. At the end of their program, students can still choose to continue their experience if they feel that it will be useful in their personal and professional development.
Diversity and inclusivity is a core value at SVSU, and Think Cardinal will allow students with intellectual disabilities to not only develop their skills, but to also help those around them.
SVSU students are helping those who are members of Think Cardinal by being peer mentors. Peer mentors help Think Cardinal students while on campus and also work with them outside campus to aid in life skill development.
Mostly, Health and Human Service-related majors are working with Think Cardinal students to broaden their horizon and learn from experiences that will help translate into their professional field. Real-life experiences with students living with disabilities such as down syndrome allow for a different context than a textbook. Friendships are formed, and both people mutually benefit from the experience.
Luke Drumright will be the first student to participate at graduation as a part of Think Cardinal when he walks with the College of Education this spring. His mother, Susan Drumright, said the program has allowed her son to expand upon the experiences he had in high school and grow even further.
“Luke had an amazing high school experience, but he needed more time to transition to a new normal of working and contributing to society,” she said. “Coming to SVSU has given Luke tremendous confidence that he can succeed in life.”
There are three key pieces to the program that the university hopes the graduates will leave with. These pieces will each serve an intricate role throughout the student’s lives and will allow them to develop independence, gain employable skills, and be included with the general population.
“The program is tailored to fit Luke,” Drumright said. “He is much more mature and self aware than he was coming out of high school.”