Mount Wachusett Community College and four public school districts have been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Baker-Polito Administration to plan an Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment program that will enhance academic opportunities for high school students with severe disabilities.
The partnership includes the Gardner, Fitchburg, Leominster, and Ayer-Shirley school districts and the Central Area Programs and Services (CAPS) Collaborative, a Westminster-based regional educational collaborative.
“We are excited about this new partnership and the opportunities it will create for students with intellectual disabilities,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Students will grow personally from their experiences participating in college courses and campus activities, and gain knowledge and skills that will help them flourish in the workplace.”
MWCC administrators and high school principals, special education coordinators and community partners held their first planning meeting on Nov. 23 to begin building a program that could be implemented in fall 2016.
Administered by the state Executive Office of Education, the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) offers grants to fund programs supporting public high school students with severe disabilities, ages 18 to 22, who have not passed MCAS, the opportunity to participate in inclusive, credit and noncredit college courses to increase their school and work success.
Research shows that students benefit academically and transition to young adulthood more readily when they have the opportunity to engage in all college-related activities rather than staying at high school. Student participation in this grant program may be incorporated into a student’s transition program, as determined through the school district’s special education process.
“Increasing the diversity of our workforce to include more young adults with intellectual disabilities complements our administration’s commitment to developing economic vitality,” said Governor Charlie Baker said. “The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative is a national model for building learning experiences and academic achievements for lifelong success.”
The grant will facilitate a planning partnership led by Mount Wachusett in conjunction with educators from partnering public school systems. The partnership is intended to create a program that gives students access to college academics and other college related activities.
“Developing clear career pathways that are built on strong partnerships between schools and community colleges for all students, including those with intellectual disabilities, is an important priority,” said Secretary of Education James Peyser. “Collaborative partnerships such as these are critical to streamlining productive enrollment-to-career pathways that are essential to a vital and diverse economy.”
Massachusetts is one of the few states to provide college and university opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities while they are still in high school. Funded by the Commonwealth since 2008, the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment program has grown to 14 public two-and four-year institutions supporting over 800 students. One hundred and thirty students are enrolled in the program this academic year.