The Aggie ACHIEVE program has seen its students go through their first semester with positive results.
The Academic Courses in Higher Inclusive Education and Vocational Experiences (ACHIEVE) started last fall, giving five students with intellectual, developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience what college is like. The students live on campus, take courses and are given an internship on campus.
Carly Gilson, faculty director of Aggie ACHIEVE, said the students in their first semester were able to adjust to the college lifestyle smoothly.
“[They] learned their way around campus, be among friends through the Aggie ACHIEVEMates organization,” Gilson said. “Our students have really adjusted well.”
Students this spring semester are starting their internships, which was something not done in their fall semester, Gilson said. The on-campus internships work to give each student opportunity to intern for the MSC, Kyle Field and Chartwells.
“It will be a component of the program every semester from here after, so they’ll have on campus internships,” Gilson said. “We just [have] students all over campus just getting those employment skills.”
Special education sophomore Anna Fedewa is the president for Aggie ACHIEVEMates. The organization works with Aggie ACHIEVE to provide each student with 12-15 ACHIEVEMates, which becomes the student’s “circle.” The circle works to be a support system for the Aggie ACHIEVE students as well as be a friend to them.
“All of our ACHIEVE students have paired ACHIEVEMates that fill specific roles for them,” Fedewa said. “They’re just getting flexible, fluid and comprehensive support from all of their ACHIEVEMates.”
While students have support from their Aggie ACHIEVEMates, Gilson said she’s seen each student’s personal growth through learning how to do things on their own. Thomas Carrizal, a student in the Aggie ACHIEVE program, said he likes living in White Creek Apartments as it has made him more independent.
“[I’m] able to do my own chores, like dishes [and] laundry … and cleaning my room in the apartment as well,” Carrizal said.
Fedewa said she has seen how the students and ACHIEVEMates have been able to form a genuine friendship in just one semester.
“ACHIEVEMates really know what these students are going through, they can relate to them as college students,” Fedewa said. “They really get to walk alongside them when things are hard or when things are good. … They’ve really integrated them into their lives.”
Fedewa said the organization is always looking for new members to join at the start of every semester. Gilson said the Aggie ACHIEVE is going to add more students next fall.
“We actually just closed our applications and are in the process now of making some admission decisions for next fall,” Gilson said. “We expect to have eight students in next year's cohort.”
Carrizal said the program has helped him learn more about his disabilities, and he enjoys spending time with his Aggie ACHIEVEMates.
“It really has helped me a lot to really get out of my comfort zone,” Carrizal said.