DREAM Students Complete First Semester; Demonstrate Success


After their first full semester at Mercer, the first students in Mercer's innovative DREAM program have demonstrated their commitment and abilities. This grant-funded pilot project accepts students with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. All nine of the program's original students have returned for the spring 2007 semester – a 100% retention rate.

Each DREAM student designs his or her own program and each has a unique set of goals, according to Dr. Susan Onaitis, grants coordinator and part of MCCC's Academic Support Services staff.

DREAM program students in a recent job skills class with a student mentor (second from left), Grants Coordinator Susan Onaitis, standing, left, and instructor Kelly Borden-Joye.

Last semester the students did job shadowing on campus and will be doing career internships soon. "The whole college community has really welcomed this program," Onaitis said. "They can't do enough to support us."

DREAM recently hosted an open house which drew a large number of prospective students and their families. Current students participated by answering questions, while faculty and staff presented a program overview.

During their first semester, DREAM students registered for a total of 37 courses. Two specialized classes were designed for them. All successfully completed "Introduction to Student Success." Eight registered for "Introduction to Career Exploration," and seven passed the course, with the eighth expected to pass when a final project is completed. Eight students took foundations classes and six received credit for them.

Among the students who took credit classes -- in communication, music, art, office skills and health/phys. ed -- all received passing grades. Six students audited classses in hospitality, Latin, office skills/keyboarding, digital media arts and dance. All who took elective classes in areas of interest passed their courses.

DREAM is a demonstration project funded by a grant from Laura and Steve Riggio, through the National Down Syndrome Society. Mercer County Community College and The College of New Jersey each received $50,000 grants each year for three years.

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