Written by: Erin Banister
On Campus Transition is a program that provides college-age students with intellectual and development disabilities with opportunities to further their education after high school. Located in building three in room 1302, this program has considerable amount of openings for mentors and interns.
The program relies on mentors to help those students feel involved and significant on campus. Mentors serve in many areas within these students’ college experience. Mentors can assist anywhere from everyday homework to small social problems. Simply having someone to talk to is enough to brighten these students’ day.
Lauren Bethune, program coordinator, said, “Mentors are so essential because they allow our students to make natural friends instead of having paid companions.”
The program consistently appeals to UNF’s student body to recruit mentors and volunteers each semester. Mentors are to dedicate an hour out of their day every week. Mentors gain service hours, volunteer experience and leadership opportunities.
Also, becoming mentors to these students is a reward in itself. Making bonds with these students is the biggest gift anyone could give them.
The students within the program honestly love spending time with their mentors. Cameron Mack, who has been in the program for two years, said, “My mentors prepare me for the future and become my good friends.”
This program serves these students not just on campus but also in their residential lives. Many of these students live in UNF’s apartment complex the Districts.
Cooking, time management and cleaning are just some the skills independent living facilitators help develop. The ultimate goal is for these students to thrive living away from home.
Programs similar to On Campus Transition are a rarity within our country. Currently there are only a half of dozen programs that provide students with disabilities advancement in their education and social skills after graduating from high schools.
On Campus Transition began in 2007 with one student in the program. Now the program has 25 students from all parts of Florida, including four from other areas of the country. This program is now a model for other programs looking to serve students with disabilities.
Bethune said, “If is wasn’t for these types of programs these young adults would more than likely be stuck at home not interacting with their same-age peers.” Also, most of these students are placed back in high school for another four years.
Bethune further stated her goal for this program is to see stereotypes for students with disabilities are eliminated. She explains how these students are just as capable as anyone else; they just need more time and guidance in developing their potential.
On Campus Transition provide a variety of benefits for theses students once they leave the program, including self-sufficiency, being contributors to society, and feeling like an adult.
One of the unique aspects to this program is its partnership with AmeriCorps volunteers. These are adults placed around the country to serve nonprofit organizations.
They help these students with work readiness, including how to write a resume and dress for success. AmeriCorps staff members invite UNF students to get involved in this aspect of the program as well.