The Path to Independence, the University of Nevada, Reno’s two-year degree program for students with disabilities was featured as the main focus of the seventh episode of the Autism Goes to College Podcast. The Path to Independence is a certificate program at the University designed to provide students with disabilities with a college experience. Students develop plans for employment after graduation and take University classes any other student would, with individualized support.
The Autism Goes to College Podcast earned a spot as a Gold winner of this year’s Inaugural Anthem awards. The Anthem awards are an award created to honor purpose and mission-driven work from the creators of the Webby Awards, the leading award honoring excellence on the internet. Gold winners of the Anthem Awards in other categories include Trever Noah’s The Daily Show, The New York Times’ 1619 Project and HBO Max’s “See Us.”
The seventh episode of the Autism Goes to College podcast featured Jessica Keefhaver, Program Coordinator of Path to Independence, and Charlie, a student attending the Path to Independence program, as guests.
“The Autism Goes to College documentary film and the podcast was initially following people who had autism go into typical college programs,” Keefhaver said. “These were individuals who could apply and get into college on their own merits. Our program, Path to Independence, is specifically for people with intellectual disabilities. We provide an alternative route to college, and students end up with a certificate.”
Keefhaver was on standby for the podcast episode to assist Charlie with recording the podcast and fill in any background information about the Path to Independence program. Meanwhile, Charlie provided his firsthand experience as a student at the Path to Independence and the University. Keefhaver said that programs like Path to Independence all have different specialties, and some programs may be better suited for different students. Students and their parents should spend time researching the options to find the right program that fits their needs.
“They all do things differently,” Keefhaver said. “Documentaries and podcasts are really important methods to share out information and how the different programs run like and what the eligibility criteria for these programs are.”
Some students with disabilities or their parents might not even consider college as an option the same way that other students can. From a young age, students can be told they are different, that they can’t do the same things that everyone else can. On the podcast, Keefhaver mentioned how the Path to Independence program emphasizes the need to let students go through achievements, struggles and failures on their own to follow their dreams – in a safe and controlled environment. Keefhaver said that even taking small steps to show students with disabilities and their families that college can be an option can go a long way.
“We just got invited to attend a college fair at one of the high schools in a rural town,” Keefhaver said. “That’s a tiny little thing, but something as small as inviting us to be part of college fairs at local high schools is huge. When I was teaching high school, I took my students to the college and career fairs that high school hosted, and there was not a lot of representation for them.”
The Path to Independence program operates underneath the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, which in turn operates as a part of the College of Education and Human Development. The Path to Independence is just one of the many initiatives created by the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities designed to create innovative research or assist students with disabilities throughout the entire state of Nevada.
Episode 7 of the Autism Goes to College podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or the Autism Goes to College website. If any local school would like to feature the Path to Independence program in their college fair, reach out to the Path to Independence program or contact Jessica Keefhaver at her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.