About five weeks ago I wrote about my wonderful experience as a participant in VUnited, a program run by Villanova students that provides an opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to be exposed to college life.
This past weekend was the final week of the program, and included presentations by the students, along with awarding the students certificates of completion.
The presentations were the culmination of a six week program that taught students about money management, health, nutrition, grocery shopping, cooking, job applications, and social media.
The presentations were fantastic. The students had been asked to talk about something they were passionate about, and they delivered. Among the topics discussed were Philly sports teams, horseback riding, rock concerts, a job at a senior center, dragons, baseball, and simple gratitude for the opportunity to be part of VUnited.
The students were nervous about their presentation, just like students everywhere. But it was fascinating to learn about their interests (I never knew there was a whole body of knowledge on dragons), and to see how happy and proud they were when they finished.
I want to offer my congratulations and thanks to the two young women and the two advisors who started VUnited, as well as to all of the other Villanova students who took time out of their busy schedules to serve as mentors to the VUnited students. They even created a cheer, something along the lines of “Who are we? We are V. We are VUnited. Wooh!”
Villanova students are truly committed to trying to make the world a bit kinder and gentler. If you want to see a glimpse of this, stop by the Special Olympics Fall Festival in November and see the passion of our students in action. It is remarkable.
I hope I can continue to be a part of VUnited in the years ahead, since I learn as much or more than the students.
Here’s a more detailed description of the program for those who are interested:
MISSION STATEMENT/WHO WE ARE
VUnited is a new organization on Villanova’s campus seeking to enhance the lives of our friends with intellectual disabilities. The 6-week program is designed to expose participants to a college experience with both social and academic components, as they work towards achieving a certificate from Villanova University.
- Social: We have designed a mentor program to partner participants with a one-on-one current Villanova undergraduate that will foster a lasting relationship with them throughout the program.
- Academic: We have developed themed modules each week to focus on application of pivotal life skills, in hopes of enhancing participant independence and job reputability, including:
- Basic Money and Math
- Health and Nutrition
- Grocery Shopping and Meal Preparation
- Internet/Social Media Safety and Job Applications
- Public Speaking and Interview Skills
You will become familiar with the program:
- Who we are
- What we have to offer
- What we hope you leave with
Each participant will be matched with a current Villanova student mentor to act as a friend, teacher, supporter etc., throughout and beyond the duration of the program. We hope to make Villanova feel like home via a short campus tour.
BASIC MONEY AND MATH
This week will focus on budgeting small sums of money and about the importance of saving. Stations include:
- Comparing prices – generic versus brand names
- Budgeting for a night out
- Smart shopping – needs versus wants
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
This week will focus on you and how to be your best self through daily hygiene, healthy meal choices, stress management, exercise, etc. We’ll wrap up class this week with a yoga class!
After last week’s focus on lifestyle choices, we’ll prepare some healthy meal options this week. As a group, we will put together an ingredients list, practicing picking out the items in a simulated grocery store, then work with one of Villanova’s favorite chefs to follow a simple recipe/prepare meals (which we will, of course, eat when complete)
This week, we will take some time to talk about appropriate computer etiquette. Stations include:
- Email structure and features
- Using search engines
- Assessing appropriateness on social media
You get to be the teacher now! Each participant will prepare a 2-3 minute presentation to speak in front of our small group about anything he/she is passionate about (great interviewing skill). We will work on this throughout the program to prepare you. We will wrap up our program with certificate distribution.