Clemson acceptance video shines light on college special program - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Clemson acceptance viral video shines light on college special programs

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Hundreds of thousands of people have watched 20-year-old Rion Holcombe read has acceptance letter into Clemson University's LIFE Program. Holcombe has Down Syndrome and had dreamed about becoming a Clemson Tiger. The video has captured the hearts of the country.

Clemson isn't the only college to have a such program. There are 200 around the nation and five in South Carolina.

The REACH program at the College of Charleston has 29 REACH students and 10 are accepted every year.

REACH Director Edie Cusack loves the reaction that Rion's viral video has received across the country.

"I get to live that all the time. I'm the one who talks to the students and tell them that they have been accepted into the program. On the other end of the phone, I hear tears and screams and crying and I actually cry on my end of the phone," she explained.

REACH is a four-year, fully inclusive college program for students with intellectual disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome. The goal is giving them the full college experience.

"They get the same college experience as other College of Charleston students. They are able to live on campus. They take traditional courses that we modify," Cusack said.

"Most people with intellectual disabilities have lifetime unemployment and live at home with their families for the rest of their lives. This increases their ability to live on their own and have a full and productive life," she continued.

The REACH and LIFE programs and stories like Rion's are changing the national dialogue and changing lives.

"The change in thought process about disability that's happening on campus. Because people are now meeting people with a disability and disability is taken out of that equation and they are just getting to know someone," Cusack said.

"They started out much more dependent on the program than they are now and they don't really need us anymore. They are ready to graduate and live full and independent lives... and that's the goal," she said.

In the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers voted to grant scholarships for the programs.

More information: http://reach.cofc.edu/

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