A new program, the first school of its kind in the Dayton area, is starting this fall for special needs and developmentally disabled adults. Echoing U is described as a nonprofit, college-like program.
“Our goal is to get our students ready for whatever they choose as their next step,” said Joe Kowalski, director of adult services. “Some students want full-time employment, some want certificates from a technical school or to attend a traditional college. It helps them to be fully integrated.”
Echoing U is part of Echoing Hills Village, a parent company established in 1967. Echoing Hills Village is based in Warsaw, Ohio.
Students will not receive academic degrees from the school located at 1628 Springfield St., Dayton.
“Our program is experienced-based learning and the students will leave with a comprehensive portfolio of experiences and business contacts,” Kowalski said. “They will have a polished resume and cover letter, as well as letters of recommendation.”
Each student will complete a capstone project in their final year. The program is four years, but continued support is available.
“Students have dreams and goals to achieve more,” campus supervisor Nicole Sturk said. “They want to move out and get married. They know what they want but don’t have tools to get there.”
The program is funded through the Ohio Medicaid Waiver program, and serves residents in Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties. Other funding sources are being sought and private pay is an option for students who do not meet eligibility requirements.
What the program does: “We are a post secondary option for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities between the ages of 18 and 30. Our college-like program is for young adults who are not suited for traditional colleges and who are not yet ready for competitive work.”
How the program started: “I worked previously as a job placement specialist,” Sturk said. “I noticed several students had the capacity and skill to be employable, but did not have the soft skills, such as knowledge and confidence to be competitive in today’s market. This program is geared toward higher functioning adults that are eligible to receive services.”
Interesting fact: “We have been overwhelmed with interest,” Kowalski said. “You never know how successful something will be until you put it out there.”
Upcoming goals: “We want to establish partnerships with different entities in the area,” Kowalski said. “We hope to partner with local businesses, small businesses, civic leaders or community agencies to talk to our students about how to be successful. University partnerships would be geared toward internships.”
Contact information: E-mail Sturk or Kowalski at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; Website is www.echoingu.org.; or call (937) 716-1312.