The college experience gives young adults access to more than higher-level academic studies. For most students, a college campus is the first place they experience a taste of independent living.
The REACH program, a partnership between the College of Coastal Georgia and Glynn County Schools, aims to provide students with disabilities ages 18-21 with aid in their own transition into adulthood. Students in the program work on campus, in the bookstore and cafeteria, and they attend classes together with the REACH program instructor. Fridays are devoted to community-based learning.
And through a recently-made agreement with the college, the students will now be able to learn how to live independently in their own home by taking care of an apartment in Coastal Place Apartments, the off-campus housing for CCGA students.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to practice the independent piece,” said Christine Metzger, the REACH program instructor who was the driving force behind making the apartment space available to the students. “Part of our program really focuses on that transition, getting ready for what the student’s going to do following graduation. Employment is a huge piece of our program, which is going strong, and I really wanted to beef up the independent living side of it.”
The students will visit the apartment on Fridays, when they’ll learn and practice skills like meal preparation, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. They’ll also have a chance to mingle in the common areas with other students who live in the apartments.
“I really hope to be able to utilize the common area and branch out and help the kids socialize, not only with each other but with other people,” Metzger said Friday at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new apartment. “… This population really functions in an isolated place, so we’ll really be working on that a lot.”
The students will also grocery shop on Fridays. Then they’ll come to the apartment, where they’ll be asked to complete basic home upkeep activities like stripping and remaking a bed, loading a dishwasher and more.
“Functional skills is not something that these students will just acquire, which is what a typical person does, they just acquire these skills,” Metzger said. “We have to explicitly teach.”
The students in the REACH program are enrolled in Glynn County Schools. The program aims to help them transition into life following graduation.
“This program is for 18 to 21 year olds who demonstrate readiness for this special program,” Metzger said. “It does require an application in order to gain entry into the program, so students could potentially be with me for three years.”
The program has been in place at the college for four years, and Metzger said its success can be credited to the support of the college.
“It has been the college who has been so supportive of everything we’ve asked, and that’s what makes it work,” she said. “That’s what makes it so successful, is having that support.”
The REACH program offers the students aid in their transition to adulthood, just as attending college helps many students make that same transition.
“It’s an opportunity for them to really have a true college experience, as a student with a disability, that they might not be offered at other areas,” said Laura Wallen, special education coordinator for Glynn County Schools. “We’re fortunate to have a college in our town and for them to be able to have this experience that they may not have otherwise had.”