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Pilot Program Gives Students With Intellectual Disabilities Chance At College

DENVER (CBS4) - Dozens and perhaps hundreds of Colorado students just got a chance to go to college. They'll benefit from a pilot program just signed into law on Monday.

The program helps students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When Connor Long testified before lawmakers earlier this year he told them his ambitions were like any other kid his age.

Connor Long (credit: CBS)
Connor Long (credit: CBS)

"To go to college and have a normal-life job," Long told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.

But until now that meant going out of state. Colorado was one of only three states without a single inclusive college campus. The new law changes that.

"This really was the work of the community and those people who have not been represented by higher (education) in Colorado, and frankly to their detriment," said Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.

Cadman and Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, carried the bill that creates a pilot program aimed at integrating students like Long academically and socially and preparing them for a job in their area of study.

Beth Leon with the Initiative for Inclusive Higher Educ
Beth Leon with the Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education is interviewed by CBS4's Shaun Boyd (credit; CBS)

"As a society we ask our other children, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' How many times do you ask a student with intellect disabilities, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' This changes that," Beth Leon with the Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education said.

Leon says the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Arapahoe Community College are already taking applications for this fall.

"They said, 'You know what? We believe in what you're doing and we would like to be the three schools that lead the state,'" Leon.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd interviews Connor Long (credit: CBS)

"Some people might be nervous, but I'm not," Long said. "I'm excited."

Long is already checking out campuses and says he might pursue a job in lawmaking.

"I don't know, working for the Colorado state Senate? That's definitely in my future," he said.

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