Program to Provide Educational Opportunities for Adults with Learning Differences

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- The SUNY Orange Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution during its November meeting authorizing the College to establish the BRIDGES Program that will offer a post-secondary educational experience for students with intellectual, developmental, and autism spectrum disabilities within the Hudson Valley.

The BRIDGES program, to be available for students who meet basic eligibility requirements, will provide an inclusive, community-based educational framework for students with intellectual disabilities (ID), developmental disabilities (DD) or autism spectrum disabilities (ASD).

The BRIDGES program encapsulates the following goals: Building educational foundations; Realizing what is possible; Individualizing personal goals and self discovery; Developing confidence and skills; Guiding the process to success; Empowering young adults in their role as Students.

The three-year non-credit curriculum will be focused on academics, developing independent living skills and social skills; and vocational exploration and training. In addition to the non-credit BRIDGES courses students will take each semester, they will also be given the chance to audit one SUNY Orange credit course per semester.

The program will include two enrollment options: a self-enrolled track for students over the age of 21 who have already exited high school and a concurrent enrollment track for students ages 18-21 who are still in high school. Startup seed money for the program came in the form of a $250,000 appropriation supported by New York State Senators William Larkin and John Bonacic. The College expects that the program will be self-sustaining through participant tuition and fees, plus gifts and grants to the BRIDGES program.

The Board’s approval paves the way for the College to start enrolling students ages 21 and over for programming that will begin in January 2016. SUNY Orange expects to be accepting high school students in the concurrent enrollment track in Fall 2016. Enrollment in each track will be limited to 12 students per year in order to assure each student receives the individual support and skills necessary to assure success.

“The mission of the BRIDGES program is to maximize the potential of individuals with learning differences by teaching skills and strategies, and providing support necessary for successful and independent lives,” said Patricia Bassey, BRIDGES director. “There is a great need for this type of programming and we hope BRIDGES will become the Hudson Valley’s leading college-based educational program for individuals with learning differences.”

As they progress through the program, students will receive support in seeking gainful employment, expand their life skills so they can enjoy greater independence, foster an appreciation of academics and lifelong learning, establish personal development and life strategies, and develop greater confidence in social participation.

According to “Think College,” a project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, “The current landscape of education and employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is bleak. Students with I/DD have the lowest percentage of postsecondary enrollment of any
category of people with disabilities Only 23% of high school students with I/DD go on to attend a two-year or four-year college. The employment outcomes for people with I/DD are equally appalling. In 2011, 81% of people with I/DD were being served in facility-based and non-work settings. These individuals were not afforded the opportunity
to access further education as adults and have little hope of ever obtaining a real job or making minimum wage.”

Bassey is a 1991 graduate of Fordham University Law School who was admitted to the bar in both New York and Maryland. She possesses experience as an advocate for government, companies and individual clients with a focus on legislation, technology, and estate planning and guardianships.

In 2014, she graduated from SUNY Orange’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program, where she participated in the College’s pilot College Learning Circle (CLC) program under the auspices of the OTA department.

“To say I am excited about starting this program is an understatement,” Bassey adds. “I am very fortunate to be able to use my combined talents to help design the BRIDGES program from the ground up. It has already afforded me the chance to develop good working relationships with many people and I am thrilled to help bring a new opportunity to individuals with disabilities in Orange County.”

For more information, program costs and eligibility criteria, contact Bassey at (845) 341-4694.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940