college student

Inclusive, four-year Redwood SEED Scholars first-of-its kind in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Applications are now being accepted for a groundbreaking new college program serving students with intellectual disabilities at UC Davis. This fall, the first class of 12 Redwood SEED (Supported Education to Elevate Diversity) Scholars will join their fellow freshmen as part of the inclusive, four-year program.

To qualify, students must have a diagnosed intellectual disability and be 18-23 years old. They may have neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome, or a traumatic brain injury. The MIND Institute and the UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are jointly running the new program. It is funded in part by a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Students will also pay tuition and room and board.

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“This is monumental,” said Beth Foraker, co-director of Redwood SEED Scholars and an instructor in the UC Davis School of Education. “This is an opportunity for students with intellectual disability to experience the social and educational growth that a fully integrated college experience can provide.”

Foraker, whose 21-year-old son Patrick has Down syndrome, has envisioned a program like Redwood SEED Scholars for years. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

“This is about civil rights. It’s about diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute director

Students in the program will have the opportunity to live on campus, take college classes, engage in social activities and organizations, and pursue an internship or job. The curriculum will combine traditional UC Davis courses with custom courses focused on relevant issues such as independent living. Although the students won’t earn a bachelor’s degree, they’ll leave with a meaningful credential after four years.

A support system will be built into the program, including undergraduate students who will serve as peer mentors, helping with academics, social activities and health and wellness. Foraker is currently training next year’s mentors.

“These undergraduates are incredibly engaged and realize that the relationships they’ll develop with these students will be symbiotic, and will benefit all involved,” Foraker explained.

A critical need

Most adults with intellectual disability are unemployed and many are living in poverty. Post-secondary options are limited, and four-year college programs are especially rare. The Redwood SEED Scholars program will be the first of its kind in California.

“We hope this is the seed that grows to include similar programs at many other California colleges and universities,” said Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute director and Redwood SEED Scholars co-director. “This is about civil rights. It’s about diversity, equity and inclusion. These students deserve an opportunity to gain the skills to engage in meaningful employment, and this program will provide that.”

How to apply

Applications are due June 4. The selection process includes an online application and an interview. Students will need to provide their most recent individualized education program (IEP), as well as other educational documents, and ask two people to recommend them for the program.

The application team hopes to notify the successful candidates in July. They’ll also provide feedback for applicants who are not successful on how to strengthen their submission if they want to re-apply in the future.

For specific questions about the application process, please email [email protected] or call 916-703-0269.

Why Redwood SEED?

The program gets its name from the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove on the Davis campus. “Redwoods don’t grow in the Central Valley,” said Foraker. “Yet this grove flourishes thanks to careful tending, a habitat that allows them to thrive and people willing to make the impossible happen. Redwood SEED Scholars will take their cue from these on-campus giants.”

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