In 2015 the Expanding Career, Education, and Leadership Opportunities Program (EXCEL) welcomed its first class of eight students to Georgia Tech. The program for high school graduates with intellectual and developmental disabilities makes attending college more than just a dream.
Their mission: to provide students with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education like the rest of us.
The program is the brainchild of Terry Blum, founding director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Since EXCEL launched last year, enrollment has nearly doubled to 13, and will increase to 24 next fall.
EXCEL is a fully inclusive, four-year program, which means its students audit classes alongside Tech students, some of whom act as their mentors. Those who successfully complete the program receive two certificates: one in academic enrichment, social fluency, and career exploration and another in social growth, leadership, and career development.
“These are not opportunities they would have gotten had they not come to college,” program director Ken Surdin said. “College opens doors and gives students the room to discover new things.”