Kathy Lambert, the director of RISE at Judson University, oversees a program that provides students with an opportunity to experience residential college life in a Christian community and develop independent living and professional skills. RISE students earn a post-secondary certificate of completion in liberal arts, with an emphasis in one of six areas of concentration. Kathy has an extensive background in marketing, product development and corporate relationship building and support. In September 2015, Kathy opened a consultancy to work with high school students, providing person-centered planning and customized employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to her work at Judson, Kathy serves as assistant director of the Willow Creek Community Church Penguin Project, which trains students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to perform musical theater.
How can students with Down syndrome overcome challenges in college?
Like any other traditional college student, those with Down syndrome will be able to overcome challenges by knowing himself/herself well. Self-regulation is so important, like understanding how diet and physical activity impacts his/her physical and emotional health. At the same time, having good supports in place is very helpful to a student with Down syndrome. For our RISE Program, Judson University has hired a team of traditional student mentors who are assigned specific support roles for the residence hall, academics and internships. We have found that the traditional student mentors are key to helping all of our students problem solve and overcome challenges. Finally, our curriculum includes approaches for overcoming challenges of various kinds, including asking for help, problem-solving and decision-making.
How can inclusive colleges and transition resources benefit students with Down syndrome?
Like many inclusive colleges and transition resources, we feel that mentoring our students is key to helping them succeed. The mentor relationships provide practical and academic outcomes, but also have resulted in strong friendships that benefit our students socially. Our campus has embraced RISE students to be in the university choir, manage sports teams and to participate in the spirit squad. Our students now call Judson their home.
What advice do you have for students with Down syndrome and their families when considering postsecondary options?
would say that no one program fits all. As with any traditional student, it’s important to know your priorities and goals to help assess the options. One of the key questions is whether you are seeking a live-on-campus or commuter experience.
Also, think about the resources and/or services that you currently use. Once a student is living on a college campus, are those services still needed? If so, it’s important to consider the logistics of how those services will be provided. Can the provider come to campus? If not, how will the student get to the provider’s location? Finally, check out ThinkCollege.net. This is a great resource to learn about programs in your area and across the United States.