"DREAM" Program Offers Opportunities
for Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities


Thanks to a new pilot program, it will now be possible for young adults with intellectual disabilities to attend college.

According to Susan Onaitis, who coordinates the new grant-funded DREAM program at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), “Students with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities will now have the opportunity to pursue their interests and education beyond high school.”

Area educators attend an information session with members of MCCC's Academic Support Services staff to learn about the new DREAM program.

Standing, from left: Joe Zimmerman of Hightstown High School, Lydia Walegir and Sue Onaitis of MCCC, Kim Badessa of Ewing High School, and Arlene Stinson of MCCC. Seated, at back: Cathy Nolan of Hamilton High School West, Gloria Conover of Steinert High School, and Valerie Kerrigan of Delaware Valley Regional. Seated in front: Trish Maldera of Mercer Jr/Sr High School, Betsy Beese of Nottingham High School, and JoAnn Lupo of Lawrence High School.

On Thursday, March 23, Mercer’s Academic Support Services office will host an Open House for families, professionals and community members to provide information about DREAM “Developing Real Expectations for Achieving Mastery.”  

The Open House takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Student Center’s Faculty Dining Room (SC145). The college is located at 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, NJ. All New Jersey residents are welcome, however admissions priority for the program will be given to residents of Mercer County.

DREAM will enable students 18 to 25 to develop a personalized schedule of pre-college and college courses based on their interests and built around their specific needs.

College courses can be audited or taken for credit. “The program is very individualized,” Onaitis said. “Each student is unique and each will select the courses, challenges and level of assistance they need.”

Helping the students to succeed will be college student mentors from programs such as Education and Psychology. They will provide supportive services ranging from orientation to the campus and classrooms to accompanying DREAM students to class, taking notes and helping with assignments.

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 to develop model programs. The first group of students is expected to begin the program at Mercer in September.

For more information call 609-586-4800, ext. 3375 or ext. 3517. For directions to the campus click here.

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