Bemis Family Foundation grant to fund new LU initiative
The F.K. Bemis Family Foundation has awarded Lakeland University a significant grant that will allow LU to pilot a two-year program to provide comprehensive support services for students with intellectual disabilities and other learning differences.
“We are excited to launch this new initiative serving students with intellectual disabilities,” said Lakeland Executive Vice President and President-elect Beth Borgen, who also serves on the RCS Board of Directors. “The Lakeland campus and community is a welcoming setting for students to live, learn and work with independence and dignity.
“As Lakeland strives to expand efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the Sheboygan community, this is an innovative and meaningful addition. We are grateful for the support of the F.K. Bemis Family Foundation to help us bring this vision to reality.”
Borgen noted that this new initiative aligns with Lakeland’s mission to serve students from all backgrounds and will build upon Lakeland’s partnership with RCS Empowers. Students will participate in LU’s award-winning Cooperative Education program, thereby earning a living and learning how to problem solve and work in teams.
Lakeland students will have a dedicated learning specialist to provide academic and social supports that transform over time from direct intensive services to independence. Each student will work at their own pace for development.
Early programming will include a focus on college self-efficacy – building the confidence in one’s ability to be successful in a college setting. Continued programming will include a heighted focus on emotional intelligence, being empathetic and understanding how to regulate one’s awareness.
An important component of the program will include socialization. Student clubs will be established to support students’ social integration at Lakeland, and students will benefit from campus community activities, including fine arts performances, lectures and athletic competitions.
The F.K. Bemis Family Foundation grant, which will provide funding for three years, will create the infrastructure necessary to support students with learning and integration to campus life. Students will live with a dedicated residence hall director providing around-the-clock support, as needed. Up to four students will be accepted into the first cohort in the fall of 2022.
Lakeland has strengthened its partnership with RCS in recent years with LU students being placed in Co-Op positions at RCS, and RCS participants working on Lakeland’s campus. RCS President Martha Vandeleest is a Lakeland graduate, and Lakeland hosted a University L.I.F.E. program that brought participants to campus over the summer to learn from faculty and staff and experience college for the first time.
As plans move forward, Lakeland will continue to raise funds to support the new program, including scholarships to ensure the program is accessible to all students and families.