AUBURN, Ala., Nov. 19, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Four new students stepped excitedly onto the Plains this fall and began living their Auburn dream along with 30,000 fellow students. These young men and women are the first participants in the new EAGLES Program, or Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success, a postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disabilities.
"It's great for these students to have a seat at the Auburn Family table," said Teanna Moore, EAGLES instruction coordinator who works with the students on a daily basis. "In just the first few weeks of the program I saw a lot of growth. The students are making strides toward independence and that has been very rewarding."
The program is part of the College of Education's Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling and provides an opportunity for the students to engage in a collegiate on-campus residential experience that focuses on academics, social and career development, and independence. Each student works at a campus job in addition to taking classes and living in the Village Residence Hall.
Inaugural EAGLES class members include Bradley Basden, Porter Caldwell, Josh Greiner, and Anna Moates, whose sister, Ashley Moates, was the 2017 Miss Auburn with a platform focused on making dreams come true for people with disabilities.
EAGLES interim director Karen Rabren, a professor of special education for 18 years, says the program allows the students to enjoy the Auburn experience with all fellow students and alumni. "Within the Auburn Creed, we pledge that we believe in the human touch and mutual helpfulness that brings happiness to all. This includes those with intellectual disabilities," Rabren said. "Auburn University is well poised to offer the EAGLES program."
It is only in recent years that students with intellectual disabilities have had viable academic options after high school. EAGLES has taken such opportunities to a new level. Moore says students are making solid connections across campus.
"The traditional Auburn students have been welcoming and accepting of our EAGLES students," she said. "As this interaction increases it will make our campus stronger and more inclusive. The students have jobs in places where they have opportunities to interact with other students, faculty, and staff, and their structured schedules are becoming more flexible as they get a feel for the rhythms of campus life and develop time management skills. The level of support, cooperation, and collaboration across campus has been amazing."
Among those many collaborators and supporters is College of Education Dean Betty Lou Whitford.
"We are very excited about the EAGLES program as it addresses an unmet need while greatly enriching the Auburn campus community," she said. "The planning committee, spearheaded by Trustee Sarah Newton and alum Denise Slupe, worked with professors Karen Rabren, Cari Dunn and department head Jamie Carney to make this long-held dream come true. We have also received strong support from the president's and provost's offices and all across the campus. This wide-ranging support will ensure a quality program."
Moore is excited about the program's long-term potential.
"If our students with intellectual disabilities are given a chance to thrive and meet high expectations, they will rise to the occasion. I see this every day. As our former Miss Auburn Ashley Moates is fond of saying, 'We are more alike than we are different.' I'm already looking forward to next semester and to many, many years of bringing Auburn together as part of the EAGLES program."