For most, going to college means experiencing new things, stretching and challenging one’s childhood ideas, and, most importantly, developing new friendships. One of the goals of the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program is to engage our students in all aspects of the college experience. In addition to taking an undergraduate course each semester, our students eat in the dining halls, work out at the campus recreational center, attend sporting events, and participate in student clubs and organizations alongside other Vanderbilt students.
The friendships that students forge with their Ambassadores are a foundation for a rich university life. In addition to their regularly scheduled time within their circles of support, the Ambassadore Social Committee plans larger-scale social events for all students involved with Next Steps to broaden their social opportunities and to develop new friendships.
To further enhance the college experience, Next Steps at Vanderbilt has partnered with the award-winning Vanderbilt Chapter of Best Buddies to help nurture students’ social and emotional growth. Through this program, our students have the opportunity to participate in many special events on and off campus, as well as the Best Buddies Alternative Spring Breaks. These service-oriented trips are organized and led by Vanderbilt undergraduate students. Past destinations include Miami, Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. During these trips, students volunteer with local nonprofit organizations and meet with the area’s leading disability advocates, as well as just have fun taking in the local sights!
Students are encouraged to further develop their self-confidence and social skills through all aspects of the extracurricular activities on and off campus. Students receive guidance as they learn about the numerous student clubs and organizations that may complement their interests and talents.
Social Skills are a critical element of successful living for all adults. Social Skills groups through the Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Clinic at Vanderbilt help transitioning young adults learn core interactional skills required for daily life. Parents and Next Steps personnel are also involved so that they can play a role in supporting and reinforcing these skills as they are practiced. Participants learn the basic social skills curriculum in year 1 then serve as mentors for the 1st year students in year 2.