Transitioning from high school to the “next step” can be an exciting time in a young person’s life. It can also come with a lot of questions and unknowns about where to begin. The LifePrep@Naz might be that perfect next step.
The design of the LifePrep@Naz program stems from the overall goal of providing individuals with disabilities, of typical college age, a similar-aged learning community that allows for the transformation from high school students to self-determined and competitively employed contributors in our society. The program is designed to prepare students for success, not only in the classroom, but also at college gathering places, competitive work placements, and for life in the community following completion of this college experience.
The Arc of Monroe offers LifePrep@Naz, along with several Employment Readiness Services that provide various hands-on educational opportunities to prepare people with intellectual or developmental disabilities for competitive/community employment.
The LifePrep@Naz program has been providing academic supports, peer mentorship and friendship for nearly 10 years. “The program provides a college-based experience for students where they learn life skills, social skills and independent vocational skills,” said Renee Turpyn, program manager for LifePrep@Naz.
She says one of the most important gauges of success for a young person entering into the program is to be willing to increase their independence skills. “The student needs to be able to navigate the campus, make safe decisions like wearing a mask and socially distancing. Independence is what we base a lot of our acceptance on,” she said.
LifePrep@Naz students have full access to the Nazareth College academic catalog and get the opportunity to audit one class each semester they are in the program. Students attend the class all semester with a mentor along with taking part in a vocational placement (on- or off-campus), work with Nazareth graduate students who offer health and wellness classes, social work, art therapy and more.
“We usually have 2 classrooms staffed – usually broken into 2 groups,” said Turpyn. “Everyone takes a life centered education class and a vocational education class. We ask the students, “What do you want to learn?’”
The pandemic has changed how the program functions this year, but Nazareth College continues to hold classes, so LifePrep has too.
“At this point, we meet in smaller groups, and all the students take the same Nazareth class virtually. We don’t have any on-campus work experiences, either,” said Turpyn. “But, that’s ok. We’re just happy to be meeting as a group in person.”
Turpyn says the LifePrep program is still very competitive and the spots are highly sought-after.
“I think that Nazareth is a prestigious college in the Rochester area and Nazareth gives a lot of support to LifePrep,” she said. “A lot of parents and students want to their student to go to a nice college, and the education and service they get at Naz is top-notch.”