Our mission is to provide transformational learning experiences, within an inclusive educational setting, for young adults with intellectual disabilities, university students, faculty, staff, and community leaders.
The goal of the program is to broaden the career options and opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities in inclusive, age-appropriate settings. In order for these students to best meet the expectations of adults in our society, they need to have integrated educational experiences. The goals are for the students to have the “outcomes we all value -- a career, close relationships, and enjoyment….” (Hughes & Carter, Transition Handbook, Brookes Pub., 2000).
Next Steps at Vanderbilt is committed to the integration of students with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of the university and the surrounding community. Students will self-direct the development of their Program of Study through initial and on-going Person-Centered Planning activities. The Program of Study is a unique and customized plan for achievement in academic areas, independent living skills, career development, and university life. While Next Steps students work towards completing an individual Program of Study, they must also complete the programs to earn a Next Steps certificate upon completion.
See details about the following Next Steps at Vanderbilt programs:
Peer mentors are the backbone of Next Steps at Vanderbilt as they provide the majority of the support the students receive. A diverse group of individuals from the VU student body are selected to serve as peer mentors. The students receive training and on-going support from the Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff. VU students have the opportunity to be academic tutors, daily planning buddies, work-out buddies, lunch buddies or job trainers for students.
Students leave Next Steps at Vanderbilt with a Certificate of Completion. They also have an electronic portfolio that they build during their time in the program. The portfolio highlights the courses they have taken, the experiences they have had in career development and social events, and the independent living skills they have mastered.
Parent and sibling thoughts on the merits of the Next Steps’ experience are useful tools for gauging the value of this educational program.
The Next Steps at Vanderbilt program is committed to evaluating the progress made by students each semester. The program evaluates progress toward goals in various areas (academic skills; employment skills; independent living and social skills; and self-determination). Evaluations are based on feedback from the many different groups involved in the program: the Next Steps at Vanderbilt students themselves; their parents; the program staff and Ambassadores; and internship supervisors.
Additionally, the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program is committed to evaluating the systems in place to support the Next Steps at Vanderbilt students, their families, their Ambassadores, and their internship supervisors. These evaluations not only guide the further development of the program, but document student progress and program development for other similar programs across the country.