Our daughter, Elizabeth, had done a lot of things by the time she graduated from high school. She had travelled a good bit, been active in scouts, competed in horseback riding, had a part time job and more. However, there was one important thing we could not envision her having, and that was the experience of being a college student. As you might imagine, we were very excited to hear of the prospects for the pilot Next Steps project at Vanderbilt. After some research and basically driven by our confidence in the leadership of the program we enrolled Elizabeth. As it turned out this would be a key period that has influenced her greatly in ways we anticipated and in ways that were a complete surprise. We hoped she would be in a reassuring environment where her studies and experiences would be tailored to her interests and level of ability. We hoped she would make some friendships and have some exposure to typical university life. What we got was much more. The Next Steps program enabled her to be exposed to university classes, obtain important life skills, interact with other students on a frequent basis and get involved with campus events and much more. Her experience there was positive, action packed and gave her the college experience we thought she would never have.
In retrospect, the Next Steps program did much for our entire family. It enabled Elizabeth to really branch out and do many things both inside and outside of school that she would have otherwise never been able to do. She participated in community projects, on occasion she represented the program in Washington and around Nashville, she participated in a marathon bicycle event, went on spring break with university students, and the list goes on. The Vanderbilt students embraced the Next Step students at a level far beyond anything I would have thought possible. Not only did this result in friendships, experiences and fun but it gave them confidence to interact with others and the modeling they received was invaluable. We were able to literally see Elizabeth develop on a weekly basis. Looking back we can say the program exceeded any expectations we might have had in virtually every area and we feel fortunate to have been involved with the Next Step program at Vanderbilt.