‘Beyond Academics’ program helps students with disabilities at UNCG

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Remington Brown is typical college student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The junior from Orange County goes to class, lives on his own, is involved in Campus Ministry and hangs out with friends.

Brown also happens to have an intellectual disability and for a while, never imagined attending a four-year university.

“I kept getting told college wasn’t for me. You can go to a community college, but you can’t go to a university college,” Brown said.

Brown is one of 50 students enrolled in Integrative Community Studies (ICS) at UNCG, supported by the non-profit “Beyond Academics.” The program was launched seven years ago and attracts both in-state and out-of-state students. 14 students have graduated with the four-year certificate. Roughly 60 students applied for the 2014-2015 academic year.

According to Lalenja Harrington, academic director of ICS, it’s the only four year certificate program in the state that serves students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We really see this as a social justice issue — making sure that students who want to have this experience have access and have an opportunity to be here.”

Students are required to meet 120 credits and can take courses through ICS or other departments, including Dr. Omar Ali’s class in African American Studies. Dr. Ali has seen first-hand the benefits of having an inclusive environment.

“The issue is development, not just on the students coming in from the program, but the impact they have on other students in the classroom and the faculty and the entire UNCG community,” Dr. Ali said.

The program continues to grow, which is exactly what Beyond Academics administrators want to see.

“It’s pretty incredible to watch students come in and grow and blossom– like any students,” Harrington said.

Brown is on track to graduate next May, and is considering a career in the music industry.

“You are who you are created to be and I believe that we all have a passion and a purpose,” Brown said. “I don’t let my race define me and I don’t let my disability define me.”

For more information about Beyond Academics visit beyondacademics.uncg.edu or facebook.com/beyondacademics.

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