Demi Keller is just a teenager and she is a person with Down syndrome. She has big dreams, and if given the opportunity she says she will work hard to achieve them.
Last weekend, she got a letter in the mail saying that she was accepted to Millersville University. Demi is 19, and several days have passed, but she occasionally takes a peek at the acceptance notice. She says it’s still sinking in.
“I feel amazing,” said Keller. “I love it a lot, and I want to be in college so bad. It has been my dream to go.”
A group including Demi’s mom, Donna Partin, formed the DREAM Partnership. They began searching for funding to provide grants to colleges so students with intellectual disabilities can attend. Partin says the experience can shape someone for the rest of the life.
“We all went to college,” said Partin. “And we understand the opportunities that are afforded you with the educational opportunities and the social and networking opportunities.”
The DREAM Partnership has been able to provide grant money to four schools including Millersville University so students like Demi can take advantage of an inclusive experience. They will attend classes with other students, live in the same residential halls and interact in the same social settings as the other students.
Nine students with intellectual disabilities, including Demi, will enroll in Career & Life Studies. According to the university, it is a four-semester post-secondary initiative for young adults with an intellectual disability who are interested in participating in an academic, vocational and social university experience. The Career & Life Studies Certificate is the first dorm-based residential program in Pennsylvania. The students will have access to academic coaches during the semesters.