About the Program
- Lauren Resetarits and Ellen Contopidis
The LifePrep@Naz Program, a collaboration between Nazareth's Dr. Ellen Contopidis, the College’s Office for Civic Engagement, Nazareth campus faculty and staff, the Arc of Monroe County, and the Victor Central School District, debuted in the Fall of 2011. It is a program that gives students with developmental disabilities the opportunity to have a campus-based experience at Nazareth. There are currently thirteen LifePrep students enrolled at Nazareth. These students are supported by three direct care staff and almost forty Nazareth student mentors. Of the thirteen students, six are school-aged and come from various local school districts, including Victor, Brighton, Honeoye-Falls, and Bloomfield. The other seven students are sponsored by the Arc of Monroe County.
Dr. Contopidis, a faculty member in the Department of Inclusive Childhood Education, was an integral part of the development and implementation of the program. She describes the LifePrep program as one that "will provide community learning experiences that allow for the transformation of individuals with developmental disabilities from students to self-determined contributors in our society." RC Westra, one of the LifePrep students, said: "It means we will be official adults." The goal of the program is for individuals to continue their education with same-age peers while working towards competitive employment.
"Nazareth College is excited to collaborate with the Arc of Monroe and Victor Central School District on the LifePrep@Naz program, which for us is a true integration of our curricular and co-curricular educational experiences," says Nuala Boyle, Nazareth’s Executive Director of the Center for Civic Engagement. "Our Nazareth students have opportunities to become mentors, friends, and co-learners with the LifePrep students through the many work study, volunteer, service-learning, internship and practicum opportunities. LifePrep@Naz is just one more example of how Nazareth College is an inclusive learning environment that embraces diversity."
LifePrep Student Experience
It is a whole new world for the thirteen LifePrep students coming to Nazareth as well. Many of them have stated that they love the program because they have gained independence and are thrilled to be making friends their own age. The freedom of a college setting is markedly different from high school, and the LifePrep students have embraced this change, and are reveling in it!
The LifePrep school year began with an orientation, similar to the Nazareth Fall Orientation. Lauren Resetarits, the Nazareth AmeriCorps VISTA and LifePrep Program Coordinator, Katherine Basal, the Vocational Program Manager from the Arc of Monroe, and Melyssa Mantell, the Victor Special Education teacher, facilitated the orientation. LifePrep students participated in the Day of Service and then went through the process of getting their schedules, finding classrooms, obtaining their Naz IDs, and meeting their Nazareth student mentors for lunch.
LifePrep classes began on that following Monday, along with the rest of the campus community. Nazareth faculty members volunteered to have an interested LifePrep student in their classroom, and on their first day, the LifePrep students each attended one Nazareth class with a peer mentor. Some of the classes that presently host LifePrep students are: Anthropology, Short Story, Introduction to Computer Science, Foundations of Education, Speech and Language Acquisition, and Exploring Religions. LifePrep students also participate in special education classes with subjects such as social skills, dating, and budgeting. Each student will also have the opportunity to participate in unpaid internships on the college campus, such as working at the Art Center Box Office or the Naz bike shop.
The responses from LifePrep students, mentors, faculty and families have all been overwhelmingly positive. This is indeed a program that truly integrates the curricular and co-curricular and broadens Nazareth’s definition of diversity. As the LifePrep students settle into their place on campus, it is our hope that they will write the next update for the Student Development Newsletter. Be looking for it!