Pilot Program of Wonderwood College Bridge is a Ringing Success!
In April 2020, three young adults with Down syndrome will become the first graduates of Wonderwood College Bridge–a challenging and exciting three-year college preparation program. This unique model includes on-campus study and participation, off-campus learning at customized levels, and independent living with a full spectrum of support.
Each one of the pilot program participants exclaims that the key to all their fun and their success is their friends– the dozens and dozens of typical students who have become mentors, tutors, dance partners, tennis coaches, counselors, and confidants. On campus at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, students have attended classes as guests of their typical friends in courses including geology, food science, biology, American Sign Language, and creative writing. They study math in an interactive lab taught by enthusiastic typical students, and each year they take on a challenging online college-level course. This year, they have been studying many hours a week to master Humanities 101. From interpreting the writings of Aristotle to analyzing poetry and learning the French terms for the movements of ballet, College Bridge students are not only learning about the arts, but are also strengthening their skills in reading comprehension, writing, and computer tech. Is all the study worth it? “It’s a lot of work, but I love it,” says Emily. “I study ten or maybe fifty hours a week. I didn’t speak French before. Now I know arabesque, cabriole, and entrechat. Maybe I’ll go to France.”
In addition to studying, College Bridge students love living in a house with typical roommates four days a week, and acquiring greater skills in cooking, personal health management, roommate relationships, and problem solving. Speech therapy, exercise, outdoor excursions, religious institute classes, and hours of fun participating in community activities fill every other minute of their weeks.
For the students in the College Bridge program, it is becoming another year of phenomenal progress. For all students with Down syndrome who aspire to higher education, it is a statement. College life is possible. It can be safe, it can be attainable, and, above all, it is fun! Doors are opening, and we can set our sights on greater things than ever before.
“I’ve always wanted to be a college student!” exclaimed Sara. “I can’t believe I’m really here! I love it all!”
The Quest for a More Challenging, More Inclusive Day Program
If you love a young adult with Down syndrome, you’ve probably been creating in your mind an image of the perfect day program. It’s not babysitting, and it’s not just entertainment, but maybe it’s not quite as intense as independent college prep. It builds on your student’s unique interests. It creates community partnerships that lead to internships and employment. It includes typical peers and social activities that encourage speech and intelligent interaction. It recognizes the strengths and weaknesses typical of Down syndrome. It achieves a magic balance between continued learning, social activities, health and exercise, progress toward maturity, and caring oversight.
It’s about time for us to begin to create that reality together. We’ve worked on different models, customizing each one just for young adults with Down syndrome, because they are a unique population. They learn differently. They thrive differently. They are motivated differently. One model that employed a customized academic curriculum has been our Mini-Academy Night School, which invited typical peers to share social activities as well as three levels of reading, speech therapy, and customized math a few hours a week. Another successful venture has been Saturday Science, a 12-week science literacy program that combined trampoline play, basketball, and community excursions with all the wonder of astronomy, animal life, anatomy, nutrition, and music for five hours every Saturday. We built and launched rockets, we played drums and guitars, we learned about brain anatomy and played racquetball–all with a team of excited, intelligent peers who found that they loved to teach and play, as well.
What would it take to achieve the right balance in a day program for you? Are you interested in brainstorming, investing, forming partnerships, and fundraising to begin building that magic program? Where do you want it? How do you want to be involved? Email us, or call us to describe your perfect plan. What is the just-right level of supervision, independence, vocational training, or fine arts for your student?
Science and Community Themes
Students thoroughly enjoyed the Science and Community theme of the Fall 2016 semester, “Music in My Life.” As the theme unified reading materials, speech practice, math problems and field trips, the students learned to read and conduct music, explore categories of music and exceptional musicians, and use technology to modify and create music. They even constructed their own xylophones and learned to play them. In December, they presented a genuinely joyful xylophone rendition of “Joy to the World” as special guest musicians in the Christmas in the Islands concert by Orchestra Adventures and the Encore Youth Chamber Orchestra.
Click here for more info about our friends at the Encore Youth Orchestra.
Winter 2017 Science and Community Theme: Space and Rocketry. The students are fascinated by the topics of star formation, constellations, light, the Hubble Telescope, and the Laws of Motion! The highlight of the March activities was learning about convex and concave lenses as the students assembled their own telescopes and observed the planet Mars. Families and all guests are invited to join us on March 15th for the launch of the rockets the students are building! Please call for time and location.