New Aspect of LIFE Gives Students Independence

Posted: August 26, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Graham and Tara Laskowski

Like dozens of other students, rising juniors Adam Toobin, 22, and Suzan Basoglu, 20, moved into George Mason’s Liberty Hall residence housing on the Fairfax Campus yesterday. As students of the LIFE Program at Mason, Toobin, who has cerebral palsy, and Basoglu, who has Down syndrome, are taking the first steps toward a new college experience—dorm life.

This is the first year that LIFE (Learning into Future Environments) students have the option of living on campus with other George Mason students, who will provide supervision and facilitate some structured on-campus activities. LIFE is an innovative, inclusive postsecondary program for young adults with intellectual disabilities who want to experience college life in a supportive environment.

“For many of our students, this is their first opportunity to live away from their parents. It can be scary for the students and the parents,” says Patti Lindstrom Drescher, LIFE Program coordinator. “This situation allows our students to learn independent living skills away from home while receiving the necessary support and guidance to be successful.”

The LIFE Program, based in the Graduate School of Education’s Kellar Institute for Human DisAbilities, currently has 17 young adults with intellectual disabilities who looked to the next challenge after high school: college. LIFE students take classes to help improve their literacy, employment skills and independent living skills.

Other LIFE students, including Matthew Phizacklea, 20, whose sister will be a freshman at George Mason, will live on campus for two to four weeks at a time. This drop-in option allows students to try living in the residence halls without committing to the full academic year.

“We also have two George Mason undergraduate students who will gain valuable experience working as resident assistants with the students who are staying on campus,” says Drescher. Part of the mission of the program is to provide Mason students who are majoring in disciplines such as education, psychology, assistive technology, social work and thereapeutic recreation gain practical experience learning from and working with individuals who have disabilities.

For more information, see the program’s web site.

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