SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Evangel University and Achieve of Southwest Missouri announced a new partnership on Friday, Oct. 25, on the EU campus.

Achieve is a comprehensive transition program designed to empower those with disabilities, ages 18-25, to succeed in life after high school.

Starting with the Fall 2020 semester, Evangel will offer training space, peer mentorship, hands-on career exploration, and community connections to local youth with disabilities.

“Evangel’s partnership allows all classes to be held here on this beautiful campus with same-age peers,” said Lynn Neidigh, Achieve board president. “Our students will have the same access to facilities and activities as Evangel students.”

Lynn Neidigh of Achieve (right) and Dr. Shonna Crawford of Evangel. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

The partnership is facilitated through EU’s Education Department, led by chair Dr. Shonna Crawford.

“The campus community at Evangel is one of belonging and respect, and we are thrilled to welcome Achieve students to this community,” said Crawford. “We are confident they will love their experience here.”

Springfieldian Connie Cline (seated), disability advocate and 1963 Evangel graduate, engages in conversation with the executive committee of Achieve. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

 

The need

According to Neidigh, Missouri has a 66% unemployment rate for individuals of all disabilities, and that rate has stayed relatively the same over the past 10 years.

“Individuals with disabilities and their families struggle to find appropriate post-secondary options that meet their unique needs and that will help build skills to launch these young adults into success,” she said.

Annette Brandenburg is the parent of a special needs teenager and was in tears as she listened to the presentation.

“This is the perfect place for ‘our kids’ to find support and additional life experiences,” she said. “You’ve heard, ‘it takes a village?’ This partnership opens the doors to bring the village closer together.”

Lynn Neidigh of Achieve (left) meets with parent advocate Annette Brandenburg. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

Brandenburg recently graduated from Evangel with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health degree.

“Evangel University was life-changing for me,” she said. “While here, I thought, it would be a dream for my son to experience the same thing.”

According to Think College, more than 5,000 students with intellectual disabilities are attending college in the United States. Persons in inclusive higher education saw a 135% increase in employment, compared to their peers.

Lynn Neidigh of Achieve (right to left) with Dr. Eddie Noack, board vice president, Amy Smith, school liaison, and Melinda Jamison, board treasurer. Far left is Dr. Shonna Crawford of Evangel. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

 

About Achieve

Achieve provides classroom instruction and experiential learning opportunities in life management, career exploration and self-determination.

Students will participate in 600 instructional classroom training hours, connect with current Evangel students for peer mentorship, and participate in job exploration via on-campus volunteer opportunities.

“The welcoming campus community, high caliber facilities, and community connections will allow our Achieve students to build independence in a supportive environment as they gain the necessary skills and resources to be successful,” said Neidigh.

 

How to enroll

Achieve is currently accepting enrollment applications for its first class, set to begin on Aug. 10, 2020. Applications may be downloaded from the Achieve website at achieveswmo.com.

The board of directors for Achieve of SW Missouri at the announcement of their partnership with Evangel University, Oct. 25, 2019. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon

 

About Evangel University

Evangel University is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,300 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.

• For more information about Evangel University, visit evangel.edu.

• For more information about Achieve, visit achieveswmo.com.

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WRITTEN BY: Erin Hedlun & Paul K. Logsdon