Grand Canyon University offers new program for students with disabilities

Oct 21, 2021, 4:45 AM

PHOENIX — For students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, college is often not an option.

Grand Canyon University is changing that by offering L.O.P.E.S. Academy at the Cardon Center, a two-year program that started in the fall.

“For many once they graduate high school, there’s really no programs available,” said Heidi Boldway, assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which houses the program.

“There’s a lot of attention in K-12 but outside of that, there aren’t many opportunities. So this program offers something for them to continue to grow and develop and work towards employment.”

Each course in the L.O.P.E.S. Academy is seven weeks long and participants take two courses per semester that are meant to help them develop social and job skills.

The topics covered in each course vary from communications and leadership to basic math and nutrition.

Students participate in an internship on campus during the second year. They’re also paired with a GCU student mentor who goes with them to Chapel events, volunteer opportunities, sporting events and other social activities.

“It’s definitely a holistic approach and teaching them different life skills so that they can hopefully work towards independent living,” said Boldway, who’s also the L.O.P.E.S. Academy program director.

The program currently has only six students, with the goal of 20-25 students per year.

Tuition is $5,000 per year and scholarships will soon be made available.

Don and Kim Cardon helped make L.O.P.E.S. Academy a reality by providing financial support.

They wanted a program where their daughter Emma, who has special needs, could get the college experience.

In a statement, the Cardons said they have great admiration for GCU and its leaders “as they share a mutual passion for faith-based innovation and are creating a safe learning environment where Emma’s talents won’t be limited.”

GCU President Brian Mueller said the university is “committed to making educational opportunities accessible to everyone.”

“The L.O.P.E.S. Academy will be successful because of our community culture on campus that embraces all students,” he said.

“It’s filled with Christ’s presence where students organically accept and support one another.”

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Grand Canyon University offers new program for students with disabilities