Students in GOAL program gaining new skills in and out of the classroom

GREELEY, Colo. -- In her University Singers class, Brianna Kimball is learning performance skills that combine her love of singing with her desire to be a public speaker.

Brianna wants to be a public speaker so she can educate people about her disability, Williams Syndrome.

Brianna is one of four students taking part in the first year of the GOAL program at the University of Northern Colorado. GOAL stands for Go On And Learn.

The program is helping students with developmental disabilities not only develop good study skills, but become more independent. Brianna wants to live in her own apartment after four years at UNC.

To achieve that goal, Brianna and the others are getting help from GOAL’s Resident Life Mentor.

“I do things like help them with laundry and we host study sessions five times a week to help them with their academics,” said mentor Kaitlyn Coates. "I think the program has a lot of potential.”

Coates said the students are really starting to find their place on and off-campus. 

Student Ryan Wilson already has a job with an event staffing company and sometimes helps spot people trying to sneak liquor and other contraband in to events like Broncos and Rockies games.

Other students are finding new outlets, like Zumba and rock climbing, right on UNC’s campus.

“We'll kinda prompt the students to do their social interactions and see how they go and get in there for that natural support if needed,” campus life coordinator James Slaughter told Denver7.

Slaughter added that four years of college are important for any student, whether they have a disability or not.

“That's the time to develop that social [aspect] -- to get to know your life, get to know yourself.”

UNC’s GOAL program is funded in part by the Colorado’s Inclusive Higher Education Act passed by lawmakers in 2016 and signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper. Lawmakers approved $75,000 a piece for four-year programs at three different schools — UNC, University of Colorado Colorado Springs and Arapahoe Community College, putting Colorado in compliance with the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. 

While UNC’s GOAL program only has four students right now, they hope next year’s first year class is a little bigger.  Ultimately they hope to admit ten students into the program every year.

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