External funding helps SUCCEED Program continue to grow and evolve as it enters sixth year

by | Aug 6, 2018

Individual donors and philanthropic foundations have given more than $162,500 combined in the past year to support scholarships and program development.

SUCCEED Program students enter the Mark Twain Athletic Center during commencement ceremonies. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The SUCCEED Program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis is entering its sixth year helping students with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn independent living and job skills as they enjoy a college experience and work toward a Chancellor’s Certificate.

New external financial support is helping the two-year residential program expand and adapt to meet the changing demands of its students.

In the past year, SUCCEED has received more than $162,500 combined from individual donors such as Steve Novik and Cathy Barancik and from philanthropic foundations such as the Employees Community Fund of the The Boeing Company, the Pettus Foundation, the YouthBridge Community Foundation and the Mary Ranken Jordan and Ettie A. Jordan Charitable Foundation.

“External funding is really the reason why we’re able to grow and keep our costs down,” said Jonathan Lidgus, who took over as SUCCEED director last year. “We’ve really been reaching out – with the help of UMSL’s development team and Associate Professor April Regester in the College of Education – and trying to use what our strengths are and what we’re doing to get support for scholarships and to supplement our program so we don’t have to raise tuition rates.”

A grant from the Pettus Foundation is allowing Lidgus to hire three student staff members who will serve as job coaches throughout the year.

They will work with SUCCEED students on fitting into a work team and better understanding how to communicate with their bosses and advocate for themselves. The coaches will also speak directly with job supervisors to get feedback on how students can improve their job performance.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” he said. “Competitive employment is an area that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities struggle with. The reason for that is gaining those soft skills in the workplace. You can teach somebody to clock in. You can teach somebody the job.”

Job coaches will help students navigate the complexities of employment in order for them to SUCCEED and grow.

Support from the Employees Community Fund of the The Boeing Company helped with costs for the annual Summer Enrichment Camp, which provides students ages 17 to 22 a SUCCEED college experience in which they stay overnight in Oak Hall, utilize a meal plan on campus, take various academic workshops, complete vocational training and engage in recreational and traditional camp activities on campus.

A $50,000 Think Big for Kids Grant from the YouthBridge Community Foundation – split between SUCCEED and the College of Education – is targeted to improve inclusion at other camps across the St. Louis region. Lidgus and Regester are aiming to create online training videos that teach other camps ways to adapt their curriculums to serve students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Lidgus said there is a need for that because other than a handful of summer camps geared only for those children, there aren’t many options available for parents.

Blueprint4Summer, a web app operated by Build-A-Bear Founder Maxine Clark that provides easy access to information about camps and events to help families plan their summer activities, has agreed to host the videos on its website. The videos are to be filmed at UMSL’s U-CREATE Summer Camp at the Recreation and Wellness Center.

Much of the other funds are to be directed toward scholarships for SUCCEED students and program development.

“The primary problem I see is the access issue that our students have,” Lidgus said. “We have a lot of middle- to low-income families that want to join the program but just cannot afford it even with loans. So grants and donations from Steve Novik and these corporations have assisted those families in doing that.”

A total of 25 students were part of the SUCCEED Program last year, including one who piloted a new program for degree-seeking students called SUCCEED+. That student enrolled in courses the same as every other degree-seeking undergraduate but received tutoring support in the SUCCEED office.

A cohort of five new students will be following that lead in the SUCCEED+ Program this fall. Four of them earned their Chancellor’s Certificate through the SUCCEED Program last spring.

“It’s interesting because we were at UMSL Day, right outside the doors of the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall, and as parents were coming out and going through the all the academic programs, we just kept getting the same question: ‘Do you support degree-seeking students?’” Lidgus said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Lidgus is excited by the evolution of the SUCCEED Program. Though he’s only been in his director role about a year, he worked with the group that started the program in his previous role as director of the Office of Residential Life and Housing.

Observing SUCCEED students living alongside degree-seeking students in Oak Hall is the reason he is so passionate about the program now.

“There was just this learning going on both ways,” Lidgus said, “and it really showed me the potential for not only this type of program but really the importance of inclusive education in higher ed.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

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