Rion Holcombe is a boy like any other. He is old enough to go to university and start his adult life. Only Riom Holcombe has this little something extra that makes him special: a third chromosome 21. That chromosome which makes life a bit different and entrance into university a bit less evident than it is for everyone else.
When the reply from Clemson University in South Carolina arrived, his mother filmed his reaction as he read it. At first incredulous, his silent joy was communicative. Yes, he will be going to university. Yes, he will be supporting the Tigers team in his university. Yes, he will be having a flat of his own.
LIFE is a programme at the end of which one does not receive a diploma but offers the possibility to people living with intellectual disability to experience life on a campus for two years. Two years during which they will follow lessons and will be able to have a job on the campus. Classes which give the students practical tools to build their everyday life. Five fields of teaching:
- Functional mathematics: budgeting, managing money, scheduling, bill paying,
- Functional literature: writing an email, reading, redacting and filling in important documents
- Independent living skills: laundry, citizenship, household chores, cooking
- Communication skills: Social skills, Leisure and self-advocacy
- Employment skills: job searching, interviewing, reading a job contract, keeping ones job
These five teaching subjects are always followed by practical work where the students are put into situations of autonomy. They thus learn to manage their everyday life and become independent quite rapidly. During the two years spent there, they have a job on the campus and their employer regularly takes stock of their evolution.
LIFE programme is directed by a team of 4 people and the students are supervised by 6 volunteer students from the campus who live in the same residence and help them in their various everyday tasks.
The students are totally integrated into the life of Clemson campus. They are fully considered as students and take part in all the activities the same as any other student: sports, cultural activities and animation. A student acting as a tutor guides them around the campus during the whole two years of their studies and helps them to integrate into the social life of the campus.
The age of admission is from 18 to 23 and there are 6 students per year. The same as any other student of their age, they must fill in an application form to show their desire of being part of the programme.
Clemson is an example of integration for people suffering from mental deficiency. On the campus, they fit in with the others, are considered just the same as any other adult and can therefore be happy and find their independence.
A new student life is starting for Rion. A normal life with an extra chromosome.