Judson University offers program for students with intellectual disabilities

It's the first full week of class for the “Rise Program” at Judson University in Elgin, which is giving college experience to young adults with intellectual disabilities.

Before this, students with special needs could only stand back and watch their siblings enjoy college. However, now they can fully immerse themselves in college life and learn valuable life lessons at the same time. 

One of the students came from as far away as California to participate. 

Jacob Urban has dreamed of the day he'd be accepted into college. Urban is now beginning a two-year journey that will lead to a certificate of completion in liberal arts. 

Nine freshmen are in the “Rise Program.”

"The students are learning about independence. We want to increase their ability to live independently through culinary classes; we have money and banking classes,” said Gineen Vargas, Rise Program Director.

Because this is their first time living independently, each student is paired with a series of student mentors. 

"Everybody gets along with everybody; it's just a warm welcome feeling,” said Michael Sutherland, second-year Rise student.

And the students are busy on the cheer squad, singing in choir, and playing instruments. 

"They probably have more friends than me and I was really surprised,” said Davide Di Costanzo, Rise Student Mentor. “I think we were all surprised in a really good way on how Judson as a community has welcomed them but also on how they impacted Judson as a community." 

Individuals with a high school degree or the equivalent, between 18 and 25 years old, are eligible to apply for the Rise Program in February.