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FGCU’s Soaring Eagle Academy

Courtesy by Florida Gulf Coast University

A new program at Florida Gulf Coast University will help students with intellectual disabilities transition from highschool to college. The program is called Soaring Eagle Academy (SEA), and this fall, it will welcome its first class of students.

“We're going to have an opportunity for our students to engage in the so-called social and recreational activities of campus,” said Dr. Douglas Carothers, a professor of special education at FGCU. “It's going to be an expectation that our students join student organizations and clubs, that they make friends on campus.”

Carothers said the program’s curriculum includes classes on reading, use of technology and getting around the community, which will help students become more independent in the real world. Students will also take courses with other students on campus, giving them the opportunity to broaden their social skills.

“The principal feature is; we're preparing our students for work,” Carothers said. “During the first semester we'll be assessing students' interests and aptitudes through the Center for Career Development here at FGCU. We'll be doing job exploration where we take students out to see various types of work on campus.”

The same program is offered in 298 schools nationwide and it earns students 39 credit hours over six continuous semesters.

“Throughout their six semesters as FGCU students, they will have a graduated series of more intensive and lengthy work experiences,” Carothers said. “Perhaps mentoring, job shadowing, culminating in two half semester internships, the second last semester, as well as a full semester internship the final semester, again in the field of their choosing,” Carothers said.

He added that by the time students have completed the program, they will have increased not only their academic skills, but their social and recreational lives, leading to better, more desired occupational outcomes.

“We've been delighted to have really strong support from the top all the way down, from President Martin down to every person on campus,” Carothers said. “Every faculty member or staff member or student that we’ve spoken to has thought that this is a great idea, and that we're very proud to offer this opportunity to the southwest Florida community,” Carothers said.

Applications for the program close on May 15 and will then be reviewed. Carothers said they hope to make notifications at the beginning of June, and have spaces reserved for the last two FGCU orientations in July.

More information can be found at fgcu.edu/soaringeagleacademy/