November 2006 Volume 3, Issue 3

Kennedy Shriver offers support for Career and Community Studies Project  

"We have to spread the gospel,” said Eunice Kennedy Shriver during a visit to The College of New Jersey on Tuesday, October 31, referring to the gospel of equality, and the recognition and appreciation of human ability.

Shriver, Gitenstein, and othersAs executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation and honorary chairperson of Special Olympics, Shriver has been a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve and enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than three decades.

Shriver, along with Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio and National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Director Madeleine Will, visited TCNJ to see for themselves how the inaugural semester of the Career and Community Studies (CCS) program is shaping up.

"You’re not just talking about changing one thing here," commented Shriver during a roundtable discussion between CCS faculty, students, mentors and administrators. "You’re changing things in major ways, for real human beings."

“TCNJ has embraced our belief that people with intellectual disabilities deserve the opportunity to enrich their lives through higher education.”

With the help of a grant from the National Down Syndrome Society, TCNJ has developed a post-secondary education program for students with Down Syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. CCS is a college-based, liberal studies program designed to prepare students for adult life through academic rigor, career discovery and preparation, and peer socialization as part of a diverse community of learners.

"With the documented success of inclusion in elementary and secondary education, it is now time to advance into the frontier of postsecondary education,” said Riggio, whose daughter Melissa is currently a high school senior with Down Syndrome.

CCS student and mentorNot only do the CCS students reap great benefit from the program, but so do the cohort of teachers-in-training who serve as mentors and friends to their CCS peers.

"The CCS program has the potential to change the entire teacher preparation program," said William Behre, dean of TCNJ’s School of Education.

In the broadest sense, the CCS program is about helping these students “find their voice,” according to Rick Blumberg, assistant professor of special education, language, and literacy. Once that voice is found, it too can help in spreading the gospel.