Judson University to offer program for students with intellectual disabilities

ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- It's a first for Christian universities in the state of Illinois: Judson University in Elgin will soon offer post-secondary education for students with intellectual disabilities.

RISE -- it stands for Road to Independent living, Spiritual formation and Employment. It's knew program started by two moms who are simply hoping to give their children the college experience they once had.

"It was just an angst inside me that my daughter would not be able to have the experience that I got to have because I came to Judson," said Gayle Gianopolus.

Gianopolus is a Judson University alumni and a mother of four, two of whom have Down syndrome.

"13 years ago I had a little girl with Down syndrome and my world turned upside down and I just through the years I had a total desire for my daughter to have the same opportunities that other kids have. One of the things I kept coming back to is college," she said.

Gianopolus was introduced to Nancy Binger, vice president of enrollment management and strategic planning at the university, who shared some of the same concerns. Binger's son was also diagnosed with Down syndrome.

"Our friendship began to develop and she was mentoring me about being a mom of a child with special needs she told me about this dream she had," Binger said. "I knew right away that it's something that Judson should embrace."

So starting fall 2017, 12 students will be accepted to launch the program. Students will have their own curriculum learning life skills, social skills, basic reading, consumer math and they will have opportunity to audit some of the traditional classes as well.

"We think it's really important for the individual to get the full college life experience. That's really what we're going for. We want them to learn to make decisions for themselves and the live independently and to understand what it means understand what it means to be on their own really," said RISE Director Kathy Lambert.

RISE is a two year certificate program and applications are now being accepted.

Fore more information, visit www.judsonu.edu/rise/
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