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State grant helps Westfield State continue inclusion efforts

By From news release
On October 3, 2016

WESTFIELD- Westfield State University was awarded $157,924 by Governor Charlie Baker to support the university’s Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) Program. The grant covers tuition, books, materials, the salary for a coordinator and employment specialist, and additional programming needs.

“As a university that was founded upon the principles of offering an education without barriers, the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative is very much aligned with our mission,” said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.

The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative Program provides dual-enrollment opportunities for students ages 18-21 that have intellectual disabilities are still receiving special education services through their school districts. ICEI students enroll in 100 and 200 level courses alongside traditional day students at Westfield State. Course choices generally reflect the ICEI students’ long-term employment goals. In addition, students are offered seminars to target social-emotional skills as well as employment trainings.

Westfield State University’s ICEI is one of 15 in the Commonwealth.  The program was implemented in the fall 2013 semester by Program Coordinator Lyndsey Nunes with just five students from four partner districts. Westfield State’s program has grown into one of the largest ICEIs in the state with 20 students from 10 partner districts signed up for the fall 2016 semester.  The Westfield State ICEI Program is partnered with Agawam, Amherst, Chicopee, Hampden-Wilbraham, Hampden Charter School of Science, Ludlow, Southwick-Tolland, West Springfield, and Westfield. 

 “The majority of our students and families never thought college would be an option, so it is rewarding to see them grow and mature through their educational experience at Westfield State,” Nunes said.

The ICEI often leads to success after completion of the program. Krystal T, 23, a student from the Westfield Public Schools system, worked with the Westfield State Women’s Basketball Team and assisted a faculty member in the education department. After completing the program, she continues to work in the education department supported by an adult agency and volunteers her time with the basketball team, assisting with practices and games.  

To further encourage inclusion efforts on campus, Nunes launched the peer mentor group pIeCEs(Positive Inclusion of Everyone Creates Educational Success) which allows ICEI students to interact with other students on campus.  Peer mentors accompany ICEI students on campus during night and weekend events. The club also hosts its own events including Halloween parties and semi-formal dances.

“Having a fully inclusive program at a college level is essential for the entire campus community,” said Nunes. “It builds acceptance and understanding and helps prepare all Westfield State students for the future.”

For more information on the ICEI at Westfield State, contact Lyndsey Nunes at (413) 572-8439 or lnunes@westfield.ma.edu.

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