Part of a community

A state initiative allows disabled students to attend college alongside their peers

Shannon Broderick, Travel Editor

Under the IDEA act of 1990, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are provided with services in the public school system until age 22 — meaning that they generally remain in high school for eight years. 

But for students who live near 14 of the 26 state universities in Massachusetts, there is another option: the MAICEI, or the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative. Formerly known as ICE, the program allows students with disabilities to take college classes and get involved in campus life.

“They just want to fit in,” said Jacqueline Walton, the MAICEI program coordinator. 

The program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst had five students from two different local districts participate during the 2015-16 school year; two “aged out,” or turned 22, during the spring semester. Walton expects to have three or four different districts, and several new students, participating next year.

Through the initiative, students take part in campus life. They audit or participate in classes with education coaches, partake in recreation classes, bond with peer mentors, and eat alongside students at the dining halls. One student has found employment at the Body Shop, a recreational facility on campus.

According to Walton, the main goal of the program is “total inclusion” for the students involved.

“To be able to come to college, and have experiences with their non-disabled peers — it’s very vital in students feeling that they are a part of this campus community,” she said.

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