SUCCEED student Tyler Haynes makes a home at UMSL

Tyler Haynes represented the SUCCEED program at the annual TASH conference. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Tyler Haynes represented the SUCCEED program at the annual TASH conference along with his mother, Tonya Haynes, faculty in the College of Nursing. (Photo by August Jennewein)

By Timothy Wombles

Tyler Haynes found his groove during opening night of the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ intramural basketball leagues. He let loose a long 3-pointer, so high it almost grazed the ceiling. Wrist angled, he leaned into the follow-through as the ball flicked through the net. Raising both arms in victory, Haynes backpedaled down the court, stopping to celebrate with a gleeful shimmy.

A few years ago, it wasn’t certain that Haynes would be here celebrating a shot from downtown on a university court. That’s because the first-year SUCCEED student has been diagnosed with moderate autism since age 2.

Haynes heard about SUCCEED when he told his mother, Tonya Haynes, that he wanted to go to college after high school. Tonya, who is a professor in UMSL’s College of Nursing, started looking around. UMSL and SUCCEED turned out to be a perfect fit, and Haynes is taking advantage of all the academic and social experiences that the university has to offer.

He’s done so well that he’s already started giving back. In December, Haynes and Tonya presented about SUCCEED at TASH’s disability advocacy conference along with the program’s team.

“I like to tell people about SUCCEED,” Haynes says. “It’s very good. I love college.”

SUCCEED is a comprehensive transition and postsecondary program approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to help intellectually and developmentally disabled students develop into participating members of their community through inclusion in university life.

Through the program, Haynes is taking a full load of five courses this semester. Subjects include vocational issues and healthy relationships, as well as his favorite so far, art history.

SUCCEED encourages and develops pathways toward student independence, so Haynes lives on campus in Oak Hall, a student residence.

“With the right support, he can be very successful,” Tonya says. “Tyler is learning to advocate for himself, and he’s making his own decisions every day. To watch him grow in the program has been amazing.”

Haynes has taken advantage of the student social experience, and people know him wherever he goes.

“They all say, ‘Hey Tyler,’” Haynes says, grinning.

Lining the walls virtually everywhere at UMSL are event posters and flyers, advertising hundreds of activities. Haynes, a social butterfly, doesn’t want to miss any of them.

“He’ll text or send a picture of something he’s interested in,” Tonya says. “He reads his email. The forms of communication here are great. He’s just come so far – when he was young he was nonverbal. Elementary school was really hard. Now, here he is singing karaoke.”

This story was originally published in the spring 2020 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email magazine@umsl.edu.

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