Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth is expanding

Academy students with community partners

Program is piloting a third year, planning study abroad trip

The Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth at Kennesaw State University kicked off the new school year with a reception honoring campus and community partners, as well as some big news – a “junior year” for students.

“In social work, when we work with people with different abilities, it’s important to partner with different organizations in the community because each brings different  things to the table that allow people with different abilities to spread their wings and fly,” interim WellStar College of Health and Human Services Dean Monica Nandan said. “All of these partnerships help nurture the Academy to its fullest potential.”

Representatives with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, Kennesaw State’s Office of Legal Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for Research were all on hand. Several Academy students and alumni were also at the reception.

“There are three other universities coming on board (with academies),” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. “This is a dream that a lot of people have that is now coming true, and y’all were the leaders in that.”

Launched in 2009, the Academy offers a unique two-year certificate program designed to provide students with intellectual and developmental disabilities a college experience through the auditing of college-level courses, as well as courses designed to help them gain social, work and living skills, so they can find jobs they want and become more independent. It is one of 250 such programs nationwide, and the only one of its kind in Georgia.

“You learn about life on campus; you don’t learn about life at home,” said Gregory Schmieg, executive director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. “We have one vision: that every Georgian live and work independently as they choose.”

Two new developments at the Academy were also announced during the reception: the Academy launched a pilot third-year program beginning this year; and the Academy has received a grant to travel with students overseas next year.

--By Jennifer Hafer