Opportunities arise with inclusive learning program

The Learning Independence, Vocational and Educational Skills Program at Geneseo gives students with intellectual or developmental disabilities the chance to learn skills in an inclusive community. 

Creator and coordinator of the program Elizabeth Hall, an assistant professor in the School of Education, founded the L.I.V.E.S. program four years ago in collaboration with other special education professionals, in an attempt to supplement New York's infamously lacking accommodations for students with special needs.

The goal for each student is to earn an Individualized Education Program diploma – a certificate of attendance which requires four-year dedication. Currently, Geneseo is the only school in the SUNY system with such a program.

"We have grown from four to 20 students in less than four years and our first group graduates this year," Hall said. "They have presented at three statewide special education conferences and three G.R.E.A.T. [Geneseo Recognizes Excellent and Talent] days."

Hall shared that although there has been exceptional growth, she would like to see more awareness of the program. "I wish that more of the campus body would recognize that this program exists and the accomplishments of the students within the program," Hall said. "It would be great if more people would be willing to work with the students and that more professors would let them audit their courses."

Some L.I.V.E.S. students are also active around the campus outside of classes. Five have joined campus clubs or organizations and three juniors and four seniors have all started internships. 

"It's a program for students with varied abilities," junior program member Jewley Spencer said. "We're getting a certification, auditing classes and participating in work placement."

"I was very nervous my freshman year," senior member Justine Deluca said. "It was great meeting instructors and new friends, though."

Spencer mentioned that this has been a great experience that has helped them both "become more comfortable in the community" and to "not be so shy in front of a group."

"Everyone else enjoys it. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the L.I.V.E.S. program," Spencer said. "We have the best teachers we could ask for."

"The administration is fully supportive of the program and we're very thankful for that," Hall said.