LIVES Program promotes independence, new experiences for differently abled students

The Geneseo/Arc of Livingston Wyoming Learning Independence, Vocational and Educational Skills program provides opportunities for students who have disabilities to learn important life skills that will help them gain independence. 

There are two branches of the program: one for students aged 18-21 and the another for older adults than that, according to the LIVES website.

Professor of education and director of the LIVES Program Leigh O’Brien explained that the program is mainly about emphasizing inclusivity and independence.

“[The program] is very broad, but basically independence is key to this and vocational skills are a part of it in both cases. It’s a very broad mission,” O’Brien said. “Our ultimate goal is to, I think, help support the notion of more inclusivity in society in many different areas.”

There are guidelines that students of the program must follow such as taking classes that are about social skills and academia with prospects for internships and jobs, according to O’Brien. 

“The students are, in both programs, involved in a wide range of activities. They all attend classes of various sorts,” O’Brien said. “Also, especially with the Livingston County ARC side of things, those students often have internships. In both programs, students can also audit SUNY Geneseo classes.”

O’Brien mentioned there are also efforts being made into allowing students in the program to live on campus to further promote inclusion and independence.

“Pushing even farther into the community, there are several students who, with the independence thing, are really interested in actually living on campus for a little while,” O’Brien said. “So, I met with Sarah Frank down in Student Life and we are looking at, after this spring semester ends, actually having students on campus and doing the things they often have not been able to do.”

Many volunteers, sororities and other organizations work with LIVES such as the new Best Buddies club, whose main focus is to foster relationships between college students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The students also take trips to Main Street and work with the Best Buddies organization, according to O’Brien.

O’Brien said LIVES works to keep making connections and spreading the news about the program so opportunities for participants can grow.

“Visibility is key here. If you don’t know about the program, you can’t do anything about it,” O’Brien said. “The more people you know, the more you’re out there and the more other people come to you.”

O’Brien highlighted the efforts being made to ensure the program is integrated within the community and guarantee that all students are feeling included.

“We have made strides, I hope, into integrating the program and the people of the program more effectively into the Geneseo community and also the surrounding communities because that goal of inclusion is driving at least my thoughts about what we’re doing,” O’Brien said.