November 27, 2022

Aggies Elevated joins USU Eastern

Making postsecondary education accessible to students with intellectual disabilities.

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This year, a new education program is offered at Utah State University Eastern. Aggies Elevated is an inclusive program designed to make postsecondary education accessible to students with intellectual disabilities. Until this semester, the program was offered exclusively at the Logan campus.

“Aggies Elevated is designed to empower college-age students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become resilient problem-solvers and self-determined citizens of inclusive communities,” says the USU Aggies Elevated website. “The program’s goal for graduates is competitive integrated employment, full community inclusion, and independent living to their highest ability.”

Liz Diamond, the Price Program Director, saw a need for Aggies Elevated at the Eastern campus. “Aggies Elevated offers hope for the future and opportunities for students to engage in things they never would have been able to engage in otherwise,” she says.

Diamond worked with Utah Valley University to write a grant proposal. From the grant, Wolverines Elevated was created and USU’s Aggies Elevated expanded to the Eastern campus.

Diamond says Greg Dart, Senior Associate Vice President at USU Eastern, was instrumental in securing the grant. “The Price campus is unique for Aggies Elevated because of our fantastic relationship with the Counseling and Psychological Services. We have support from the Connections class and the Writing Center,” Diamond says. CAPS offers weekly well-being check ins and makes referrals as needed. The Writing Center offers personalized lesson plans for students who need support with writing.

“The goal is to offer accessible education and an opportunity to for students to earn a meaningful certificate,” Diamond says. “And meaningful is an important aspect.” The Integrated College and Community Studies certificate earned at the end of the two- year program is viewed as a stepping stone. Students who are interested can attend a third year to earn a technical or associate degree. Classes counting toward the certificate count for credit in USU’s course catalog. Some courses in the program are specialized for Aggies Elevated students as well as other courses anyone may take.

The Comprehensive Transition Program is federally recognized and students are eligible for financial aid through Vocational Rehabilitation and FAFSA. There scholarships available

to Aggies Elevated students including one specifically for graduates from Carbon High School in

Price, Utah.

The application process is competitive because there are only five to eight students

admitted to the Eastern Aggies Elevated program each year. Applicants must have an intellectual

disability including Down Syndrome, Autism or certain types of brain injuries. Eligible students

are between 18 and 26 years old. The application for the program opens in October and closes in

December.

In addition to academic goals, the program focuses on independent living skills: living

away from family, living in the dorms, and dating—all important aspects of development, says

Diamond.

Students are given 10 hours each week of peer mentor support. Peer mentors are USU

student employees who help with individual academic goals, independent living skills (including

cooking, laundry, and budgeting), and goals related to the student’s desired profession.

Diamond serves as the academic advisor for Eastern’s Aggies Elevated program.

Students meet with her weekly to check on the progress of goals and for support and

accommodations as needed.

An important aspect of the program is internships offered in the second year. Internships

are provided by partnering with members of the community and determined on a student-by-

student basis. Students expressed interest in computers and information technology,

paleontology, and dog training. Those interesting in providing internships should contact

Diamond.

Since this is the first year of Aggies Elevated at Eastern, Diamond says the program is

growing and adapting.

“Each cohort will see improvement, and it’s exciting to see the students succeed with

their peers,” she says.

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