P2I - Path to Independence

The Path To Independence is:

  • An inclusive, two-year, non-degree certificate program offering a college experience to students with intellectual disabilities.
  • A collaborative effort of UNR's Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED), the University of Nevada Reno Extended Studies Department, (UNR EXS), Sierra Regional Center (SRC), the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), Lyon County School District and Washoe County School District.
  • Partnering agencies and districts during the 2022-23 academic year include Sierra Regional Center (SRC), Rural Regional Center (RRC), the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), Lyon County School District. Washoe County School District, Nevada Connections Academy and Bishop Unified School District.

Each student and their invited guests participate in Person Centered Planning (PCP) each spring. The plan determines the level and direction of academic involvement. The STAR (Students Transitioning to Adult Roles) planning process is used, which includes the areas of Academic Enrichment, Independent Living, Self-Determination, Campus & Community Engagement, and Career Development & Employment.

In order to achieve outcomes of employment and independence, the project is structured into three areas:

Academics & Campus Activities

P2I students take University college classes with typical peers. Classroom supports for students in this program are individualized based on need and come from a variety of resources. Students have an educational coach assisting them in class, if needed. In addition, students in the Developmental Disabilities Minor program have the opportunity to earn credits in an independent study class as academic supports or social mentors for Path to Independent students. Regular study sessions are offered for P2I students to get assistance with reading, assignments and homework. In preparation for living a full, productive life, students are encouraged to participate in campus activities such as clubs/organizations and sports activities. Mentors assist them to become active members of the university community.


Through its collaboration with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), P2I students create an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE). During the four semesters of the program, students prepare for integrated, competitive employment. P2I's employment coordinator takes the lead in these activities:

  • Semester 1: Pre-Employment Training (Pre-ETS) planning, job discussion and exploration
  • Semester 2: Work experience in a rotation of three internships on campus
  • Semester 3: Paid/unpaid internship and/or a student job on campus in an area of interest to student
  • Semester 4: Paid/unpaid internship and/or a student job on campus in an area of interest to student; Work with job developer to find post-graduation competitive integrated employment in the community.

Independent Living

An important aspect of college life for all students is learning to live independently. Path to Independence does not currently offer a residential component to the program. Path to Independence staff assists each student to access community services that will lead to the desired independent living outcomes in the PCP. Each semester, one independent living class is provided to P2I students. Topics include Relationships and Sexuality, Self-Advocacy/Self-Determination, and financial literacy topics. In addition, public transportation travel training is available through agency partners.

P2I Application Process

Thank you for your interest in joining the Path to Independence (P2I) program at the University of Nevada Reno.  P2I is open to students with intellectual disabilities, who do NOT have a standard diploma.

Common documents required for the application process include but are not limited to: the Path to Independence Application, a current or most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and most recent psychological evaluation, a skills and behavior assessment, three references, high school transcripts, immunization records, a recent photo, admissions media (essay, presentation or video) and guardianship or power of attorney documents (if applicable). Links to access the application and upload the appropriate documents will be available between December 1 and January 31.

Successful candidates will be students who:

  • Have a diagnosis of intellectual/developmental disability or related condition
  • Are between the ages of 18-26
  • Have completed high school
  • Have a minimum 3rd grade reading level
  • Have the ability to communicate through voice or assistive technology
  • Have basic safety skills in an unsupervised setting
  • Have the personal desire to gain the skills that will lead to competitive employment and independent living
  • Are currently receiving, or eligible to receive, supports through the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation or Aging and Disability Services

Applications for the Fall 2023 cohort are being accepted between Dec. 1, 2022 through Jan. 31, 2023

Before starting this application, please ensure you have the following information and documents readily available in a digital format. You will be required to provide contact information for three non-family references (name, email and phone number) and attach/upload a current or most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP), most recent psychological evaluation or eligibility determination, high school transcripts, immunization records, a recent photo, admissions media (essay, presentation, or video) and guardianship or power of attorney documents (if applicable) before submitting this application.

The admissions media (essay, presentation, or video) should be completed by the student applying and explain why they are a good candidate for our program. This can be an essay, a video or YouTube link to a video, or a presentation (such as PowerPoint or Prezi). This will be viewed by the admissions committee. 

Please complete this application fully and submit before OR by 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2023. Every effort should be made to have the applicant answer the questions in the application independently. A parent/guardian or support person will be asked to indicate the level of support they provided and sign the application along with the student.

Path to Independence staff will contact the references provided and provide a behavioral assessment to the applicant by email upon receipt of the complete application. Instructions for completing and returning the behavioral assessment will be included in the email. The three non-family references and the behavioral assessment are required components of the application process. A mandatory Activity Day will be held for all applicants on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

Attendance at an Information Session is strongly suggested prior to applying. If you have any questions, please contact the Path to Independence Program Director, Jessica Keefhaver, by email at jkeefhaver@unr.edu or call (775) 682-9074.

Apply to the Path to Independence Program

2022-23 Information sessions

Anyone interested in attending the Path to Independence program in the future should attend an information session. We will share basic details about the program and the application process. These sessions are for interested students, their families and professionals. ​Sign up is required. It’s possible to sign up for more than one session, just use the same link again to register for more than one session.

  • In-person session: Saturday, Nov. 19 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. 
  • In-person session: Friday, Dec. 9 from 6-8 p.m.
  • Online/virtual session: Thursday, Jan. 19 from 6-8 p.m. 

Register today


P2I graduates are doing great! Data from 2019 shows:

  • 83% are employed or have continued in college
    • Jobs include: assistant pre-school teacher, prep chef, events porter, casino showroom usher, retail team member, VISTA (Volunteer In Service to America) member.
  • Four own businesses
  • 77% are registered to vote
  • 75% are satisfied or very satisfied with their social lives

What does P2I cost?

  • P2I students pay UNR tuition and fees, plus a $3,500/semester program fee
  • Some students are eligible for dual enrollment with his/her school district paying educational costs
  • P2I is a Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP) with the U.S. Department of Education, so students may qualify for Federal Financial Aid

P2I External Evaluation Report

For more information, contact:

Jessica Keefhaver