New GCU program gives people with disabilities a taste of college

By Rocio Hernandez
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 7:30am

Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University has started a new program aimed at giving individuals with moderate intellectual disabilities a chance to experience the academic and social elements of college life.

Grand Canyon University has launched a new two-year, non-degree program that’s intended to give individuals with moderate intellectual disabilities a taste of college life.

L.O.P.E.S. Academy, created in partnership with the Don and Kim Cardon, principals of the Cardon Development Group, is designed to teach students academic, social and job skills that will help set them up for independent living. The first year is focused on allowing students room to explore their interests and preparing them for internships. Participants will take part in seven-week courses to learn skills such as writing, research and teamwork.

"The second year will be placing them in an internship on campus that first semester, might be the marketing department, might be in the professional writing, communication office. Whatever their interest is.” 

In the final semester, students will be placed externships at GCU partner organizations including local companies and nonprofits. 

In addition to job opportunities, the program will also give participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in campus life by being partnered with a student that will guide them through extracurricular activities at GCU.

"That way they feel safe. They’re being brought into a club meeting not on their own but with a buddy and that’s all about them exploring," Elliot said. "So that’s an important part. We want to make sure they have the same college experience that you and I had where you got to choose what you wanted to be in.” 

At the end of the program, students will be awarded with a certificate that will show employers what they can do, Elliot said.  

The program already has seven participants, and has room for three more in this cohort.