DSCC Awarded State Grant

DIDD Awards Tennessee Believes Grants to Four Higher Education Institutions

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is awarding Dyersburg State Community College a $327,262 grant to expand higher education opportunities to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dyersburg State is one of only four higher education institutions receiving initial funding from the department’s new Tennessee Believes grant program, and will be the first Tennessee community college to create an inclusive program for students with intellectual and developmental (cognitive) disabilities (IDD).

The college will use the grant to establish the Eagle Access Program, which will offer traditional college experiences for students with IDD. The program is designed to help students gain independence, increase employment training and skills development, and increase their socialization skills. They will have opportunities to join student groups and organizations, participate in class discussions, and represent DSCC at local and community events to promote the program.

“The Eagle Access Program speaks to the heart of the community college mission: expanding access to postsecondary education to underserved populations and expanding opportunities for all in our communities to achieve a better way of life,” said DSCC President Scott Cook. “It is a great honor to be the first community college in Tennessee to offer a program for students with intellectual disabilities, and I am incredibly proud of the DSCC team, led by Dr. Jimmy Barham, who made this opportunity happen.”

“Eagle Access is a dream realized for those who are often some of the most marginalized among us. Our communities will be stronger and more vibrant through the work of this program and others like it,” said Barham, the college’s Dean of Arts and Sciences.

For individual students, Eagle Access will be a four-term, two-year comprehensive transition program in which they will take two college classes (audit or credit) based upon their interests, needs and goals each term. Students will also take four non-college-level courses through Continuing Education: Life Skills/Independent Living, Digital Literacy, Career Development/Exploration, and Eagle Access Internship work-based learning experience throughout the program. Students will receive a completion certificate when they conclude the program and will be invited to participate in DSCC’s annual commencement exercises.

DSCC Vice President Jan Reid-Bunch said the college will launch Eagle Access for the Fall 2022 semester. “We are incredibly excited to receive the Tennessee Believes Grant.  Developing The Eagle Access program will increase educational opportunities and experiences for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in West Tennessee.”

Community members and corporate partners can support the Eagle Access Program by committing financial support, free marketing and branding, serving as an employer partner and internship site, serving on the Advisory Board Committee, or hosting supporting events on behalf of the College. They may contact Dr. Amanda Walker, DSCC Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs, for more information on how to support the program.

The state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) received $500,000 in first-year funding, appropriated by the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Lee, to launch its Tennessee Believes initiative.  The department will provide grants for up to three years to selected colleges and universities who launch new or enhance existing programs that carry out the initiative’s mission: to increase the number of higher education programs that serve students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Tennessee, in classrooms and campus life. 

In addition to DSCC, institutions receiving the first Tennessee Believes grants are the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Tennessee State University, and Vanderbilt University.

“These higher education institutions demonstrated innovation and enthusiasm for providing increased opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state,” DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said in announcing the grants. “I’m excited to see firsthand how students will adapt to campus life while preparing for independence and employment.

“We know that inclusive higher education not only benefits the students who participate in the program, the entire student population benefits,” Turner said.  “Providing more opportunities in both our rural and urban areas will help ensure that higher education is accessible for any student with IDD who has the desire to pursue it.”

Learn more about Tennessee Believes here: https://www.tn.gov/didd/for-consumers/tn-believes.html