SLU receives $40K grant for inclusion programs
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University has been awarded additional funding to expand an alliance of universities and colleges across the state that provides inclusive education opportunities for students with developmental disabilities, such as its Lions Connected program. Created by Associate Professor of Education and Director of Lions Connected Gerlinde Beckers, Louisiana Post-Secondary Inclusive Education was awarded $40,000 from the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council. Beckers received $40,000 last year to create the program.
“LA-PIE gives Southeastern the opportunity to assist other Universities in the state to establish inclusive post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities, and it also gives us the opportunity to showcase our Lions Connected program,” Beckers said.
Dean of the College of Education Paula Summers Calderon said circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allowed Lions Connected to shine as a leader in the field of post-secondary inclusion.
“When schools and universities shifted to remote instruction in March, Dr. Gerlinde Beckers, Mr. Jim Zimlich, and the Lions Connected student mentors continued to provide quality instruction and support for our Lions Connected students. Teaching life skills in a virtual environment has its challenges. Have you ever tried to teach someone to tie shoes through Google Meet or Zoom?” Calderon asked. “The experience in spring 2020 has proven that our Lions Connected program is the example for other programs to follow. Southeastern and Lions Connected are in prime position to assist other programs in the state as they create and grow their post-secondary inclusion programs.”
In its first year, LA-PIE has developed a website that Southeastern hosts. The site features in-depth information on the existing post-secondary programs. Beckers said that they also developed and currently maintain a LA-PIE Facebook that can quickly disseminate information.
Over the past year, the group discovered that only three of the four-year universities in Louisiana have inclusive post-secondary programs, but all three programs are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Conversely, only three of the 36 community, vocational, technical, or community colleges have inclusive post-secondary programs, and only one is accredited.
Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, Beckers said they disseminated information at several state conferences and hosted a town hall meeting on the Bossier City Community College campus in March with the hope to facilitate more programs in the northern part of the state. Currently, the majority of the programs are in the southern part of the state, Beckers said.
“As a result of our town hall meeting, we have worked diligently with Grambling State University and Louisiana State University – Alexandria in providing technical assistance as they develop their programs and funding sources,” she said.
Moving forward, Beckers said LA-PIE would continue to work to increase inclusive post-secondary programs in Louisiana through mentoring and technical assistance.
“Although we have transitioned to virtual, our goals and desires to improve the post-secondary outcomes for individuals with disabilities have not changed,” said Beckers.
For more information on LA-PIE, contact Beckers at email@example.com.