Beginning this fall, a new partnership between Women’s League Community Residences (WLCR), a lifespan social services organization, and Yeshiva University will make a Jewish collegiate experience accessible to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Called the Makor College Experience, the three-year, non-degree program enables young men with intellectual disabilities to become a part of the YU community on the University’s Wilf Campus as they gain skills, explore opportunities and transition to a life of independence. Students in the program will begin their day immersed in a special Judaic studies program in YU’s batei midrash (study halls), then take self-contained courses in the afternoon that will range in focus from the liberal arts to living skills.
“The YU Wilf Campus in Washington Heights is the perfect place for such a program,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Undergraduate Torah Studies. “Here, they [have] wonderful opportunities for social integration and enjoy Torah and secular learning while taking advantage of the staples of Jewish life that are readily available on our campus, such as minyanim, kosher food and thriving Jewish celebrations and activities.”
The program is tailor-made for young men with intellectual disabilities who wish to continue their education after high school, have a strong motivation to learn and gain skills, are excited to become involved in campus life and have a long-term goal of finding gainful employment. As such, it will feature a heavy emphasis on vocational exploration and opportunities, preparing students to take on employment in fields such as administrative environments, retail and food services and communal work. Students will work with academic advisors to choose a career field based on their interests, skills and abilities, as well as learn how to build a resume and manage correspondence.
Equally important will be an array of social opportunities to experience life on campus , as students in the program engage in chavrusah (partnership) study with their peers, attend events, connect with mentors and avail themselves of job placement options on and around campus. While the program doesn’t grant a degree, students will graduate with a Certificate of Completion, a resume and a reference letter for future employment. Residential opportunities will be addressed on an individual basis during the admissions process.
“This is a win-win experience for all involved,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life at YU. “As a yeshiva and a university, it is fitting that we join the ranks of other colleges that offer this type of program. We look forward to the mutual learning and give-and-take our current students and those we will welcome to campus through the Makor College Experience will share.”
“For many families in our community, YU is more than just a university—it’s a dream,” said Dr. Stephen Glicksman, developmental psychologist at WLCR. “This gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘letter of acceptance’—for our students, this is next step in their growth as young Jewish men.”
For more information or to apply, visit www.yu.edu/makor-college-experience.