SDAP receives federal grant


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Appalachian State University’s Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program recently received a grant for 1.114 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education.

SDAP is a two year program for students with disabilities where they can receive a college education to prepare them for careers after college.

One of the things the grant money will go towards is hiring new staff members. Anna Ward, the director of the SDAP, said they’re looking to hire enrichment coordinators.

“The students when they come into the program, are at a different level academically, and a lot of the skills that a typical student has, they might not have,” Ward said. “So the enrichment coordinators will help them with their classes, advise them about other classes to take and they’ll serve as a liaison to the professors who might have these students in their class.”

Mandy Harrison, one of the grant writers, said that they’re also looking to hire a coordinator to assist students in getting internships and jobs.

“One of the things we want is to help the student be more independent after they’re done here, so we want to hire someone to coordinate internships for students to do while they’re here, and then help with job placement once they leave,” Harrison said.

Additionally, the grant money will go towards conducting research.

“The research will be on what the best practices are for programs like this,” Ward said. “We want to look at how do you teach people how to be self-advocates and how to have self-confidence; traits that we’re all working on for ourselves, but might be a bit harder for people with disabilities.”

There are currently six students in SDAP. Two students are in the second year of the program and four of them are in the first year.

Ward said they want the program’s certificate more akin to a college degree.

“One of our goals here at Appalachian is to make their certificate of achievement something more recognized by the institution in which it’s housed,” Ward said. “We want to make the credentials more acknowledged.”

Ward said the program is looking to add five more students each year with the additional funds from the grant.

“Hopefully with the money from this grant, we can continue helping students with disabilities across the state, and even some out of state,” Ward said.

Before receiving this grant, Appalachian State’s SDAP received funding from Western Carolina University. However, the grant expired in 2014.

Harrison said this grant is immeasurably significant for the SDAP.

“This grant is hugely important,” Harrison said. “We weren’t even sure that we’d exist after this year, and now we’re guaranteed to be around for at least five more years.”