PSU's CCS Program at the Vanguard of National Trend
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: August 19, 2019
Portland State University's Career and Community Studies (CCS) is at the forefront of a national trend involving the rapid-fire growth of college programs including adults with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Lucy Balthazaar is one of 21 students in the CCS program, an inclusive college experience for students with ID that was launched in the College of Education in 2016. In 2020, Balthazaar will be among the first cohort to complete the four-year certificate through the CCS program.

CCS “is a great opportunity for young adults with intellectual disabilities to get job development and have a four-year college experience like any other student,” she said.

Balthazaar and a few of her fellow CCS students—Rachel Esteve, Dominic Flesey-Assad, and Jill Young—all said that they’re loving the experience.

“It’s just having the opportunity to go to college, so I can learn more new things and experience new things,” Esteve said.

Support from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has led to post-program employment success, and could be why since 2009, programs like CCS have grown from 149 to 265, according to an article in The Atlantic literary journal and a piece on the website for Think College, a national center that supports programs like CCS.

CCS Co-Director and COE Prof. Mary Morningstar said college is a rite of passage for many, and students with ID should have the same opportunity. CCS students take the same courses as other PSU students, but with some modifications and supports. Morningstar said inclusive college programs lead to post-college success.

“The research shows that students who are in fully inclusive programs, such as CCS, have a significantly higher rate of employment,” Morningstar said.

Adults with ID had a 17% average employment rate, yet students with ID who finished a postsecondary program like CCS had a 65% employment rate, the Think College website said. Adults without disabilities had a 65.9% employment rate as of 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So, programs like CCS have an equalizing effect. In fact, CCS requires its students to work part-time while in school and ensures that they secure a job.

“All of our students are in competitive-wage, inclusive jobs by the end of their freshman year working on the PSU campus or in the community,” said Ann Fullerton, PSU professor emeritus and founder of CCS.

Morningstar said another reason for the popularity of the PSU program could be the supports, such as academic coaching and school work modifications. Instructors work with students to create an individual learning plan to grasp material at their own pace; that may include delivering a presentation instead of handing in a written project, she said.

“Students still have to show what they know, but they do it in a way that meets their individual strengths and needs,” Morningstar said.

CCS is also a community that embraces its members, Flesey-Assad explained.

“You have friends around you, and they can support you and help you with your homework,” he said. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone.”

Flesey-Assad said his future goal is to work for Special Olympics, where he is now an intern, while Young is interested in fashion and Esteve wants to work with young children.

“All of their career goals are considered when developing their work-based learning experiences and deciding on coursework,” Morningstar said.

As for Balthazaar, she has published a story about her life on the Think College website and will be earning her CCS certificate. She will then work toward a one-year certificate at Portland Community College and become a classroom instructional assistant.

On a recent trip this summer, she and her mother visited the orphanage in China where her parents adopted her. Before she left China, she said that all she wished for was to show the children they are loved.

“They might know what love is, but not how I do with a family and having friends,” she says. “That is my dream.”

Pictured above  are four PSU Career and Community Studies students, from left to right: Dominic Flesey-Assad, Rachel Esteve, Lucy Balthazaar, and Jill Young. Photo by Jillian Daley

To share stories ideas about the College of Education, email Jillian Daley.