Why Go To College?

Why go to college?  What’s the point?  After all, students attending Propel, or other post-secondary programs aren’t earning a “college” degree, are they?  If you aren’t asking this question, someone in your life is.  Here is what to tell them.

People who attend college, including people with intellectual disabilities, are more likely to have a job and earn more at that job.  People with intellectual disabilities who attend college are more likely to live alone and to be financially independent.  They are also more likely to be able to use public transportation which, in turn, gives them more opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. College also give people with intellectual disabilities a network of lifelong friends.

Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion during the post-secondary education experience for students with disabilities can provide a well-rounded academic experience for all students.

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Being a part of a diverse and inclusive educational environment allows students to fully engage in their academic career.   Academic participation is crucial for students, higher participation leads to a greater sense of belonging (Raley, 2007) among students with disabilities.   Inclusive and diverse environments give students with Disabilities greater visibility on campus.   Visibility gives students greater access academic services and opportunities.

Leake, D. W., & Stodden, R. A. (2014). Higher Education and Disability: Past and Future of Underrepresented Populations. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability27(4), 399-408.

Expanding Horizons

Expanding Horizons or “Blow your Mind OPEN”

A high school student does not have a lot of choice about the courses they take: English, Gym, Social Studies, and so on.  There will only be one or two electives a year.

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In college, most of the courses are chosen based on the interest of the student.  There are many more courses available than in high school and there will be more courses available in areas of specific interests.

The other way that a Propel student will grow is by learning more about how other people think and believe.  Whether sharing a dorm room, or a cup of coffee, students will live and learn with students from many more places than the high school neighborhood.


Work plays a big role in most adults’ lives; yet many people with disabilities are either unemployed, or underemployed. This is truly a shame, for not only does this situation make their lives smaller and poorer, it means that people with disabilities don’t get to be full members of society, contributing to their families and communities as much as they could and want.

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Just as important, though, all of society loses out when people with disabilities do not work.  People with a variety of disabilities have created some of the world’s greatest inventions, art and ideas.  They often did not do well in school.  Scientists such as Albert Einstein, who had developmental delays as a young child, and Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, both did poorly in school. Artist Vincent Van Gogh exhibited behaviors and traits now considered part of an autism spectrum disorder.

At Propel, we believe work to be central to our core selves, and so we have developed a program that helps students not only develop a career plan but also provides opportunities for students to work at internships in their chosen industries or professions. We focus on strengths and talents, for they can lead to a satisfying career path.


The college experience is not all studying, writing papers until 3am, college can be fun too.  Being in college can be the most exciting time in a young person’s life.  The experience of meeting new people and making new friends that can become lifelong friendships is worthwhile.

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College can be starting point for young adults to establish their own identity.  College can provide social activities through sororities, fraternities, and other organizations that can enhance the college experience for students.  These organizations host events like movie night, game night, charity events and many more events.  Social organizations allow students to become engaged in campus life which lead to academic success.

Leake, D. W., & Stodden, R. A. (2014). Higher Education and Disability: Past and Future of Underrepresented Populations. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 27(4), 399-40

Social Capital

Social capital simply represents the relationships and communities, both close and distant, we form and rely on as we go through life. These links and bridges to others allow us to trust each other and work together, to have each other’s backs during stressful times.

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Our closest bonds, families and friends may support us in reaching our goals, but when it comes to employment, the deeper the social capital the easier it is to find work. Today’s “knowledge economy” greatly values human capital, so those who are outside the mainstream, with the least education and few networks are left out. That’s why it’s so important that individuals with disabilities engage in the world more, broaden their networks. The Propel program can help students expand their reach and develop their social capital, leading to more productive and interesting lives.