Edgewood's "Cutting-Edge" Helps Students With Disabilities

Home » Here and Now » All Episodes » Edgewood's "Cutting-Edge" Helps Students With Disabilities

Edgewood's "Cutting-Edge" Helps Students With Disabilities

Premiere Date: 
April 11, 2014

The Edgewood College program admits and oversees students with developmental disabilities.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Now that spring has sprung, this is the time of year high school seniors are getting their college acceptance letters. College loan debt, holistic admissions, and Ivy League selectivity area all in the news. But there's one piece of news pertaining to college that caught our attention in a big way this week. It's the admit letter a Little Chute student received.

Noah:

I got accepted!

Noah’s Family:

Yes!

Noah:

Yes! You rock! I love you! I got accepted! Yeah! Yeah!

Frederica Freyberg:

That is Noah. He's headed to Edgewood College in Madison. He will be attending a special program for intellectually disabled students called Cutting Edge at Edgewood. That program's director, Dr. Dedra Hafner is here to tell us about Cutting Edge, along with a current student, Tyler Newberry. Thanks to both of you for being here with us.

Tyler Newberry:

Thank you for having me.

Dedra Hafner:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

I want to start with you, Dr. Hafner, and suggest, Noah seems so excited to come to Edgewood. What kind of opportunity will he be looking forward to when he arrives on campus as part of Cutting Edge?

Dedra Hafner:

One of the things that's really important in our program is inclusion, that it's about inclusion. And so for our freshmen, we want students that are the Cutting Edge students to have the same experience that all other freshmen have. So he'll be coming on right when they do an orientation, which is a couple days ahead of time. Parents will be moving him into his resident hall, just like all the other parents are doing. The parents also get to say goodbye to their kid, and their child, and say, okay, you know, you're ready to go off to college. So we want those experiences to be just blended in, and so Noah isn't necessarily going to have something that is different or separate or something over here. He's going to be part of the group. I just see him being an excellent Cutting Edge ambassador. I think he's going to create connections with lots of people. He's very outgoing, which is an important piece. And then when he comes, we will have things like certain courses that he'll be taking with other students that are regular courses. He'll be living on campus. He'll be working on campus. So, again, all the other things that naturally happen with college students.

Frederica Freyberg:

When Edgewood started this program in 2007, why did you have that mission?

Dedra Hafner:

You know, it was actually part of my doctoral program, so one of the things that happened was I started looking at, you know, doing some research for my dissertation, and I had just started to notice that there was some people kind of on the east coast of the United States who were having people with intellectual disabilities, for example, Down Syndrome going to college. I thought, well, this is a really interesting idea. In doing research, there really wasn't that much available at that point. There were only 39 colleges that were doing it in the country at that time. So I approached Edgewood and said I need to do my dissertation research, and what I want to do is bring students on the campus. I have no idea what's going to happen, but let's figure it out. That's kind of been the continuing evolution of our program, is the students come, and they say, I want to take this class. It's like, okay, well, let's go talk to this professor and get you in the class. Then they say I want to be on the baseball team, and I want to do this, and I want to do this, and really being able to say, okay, how do we do that? Let's figure it out and let's come up with some ways.

Frederica Freyberg:

Tyler, let me move to you and ask why did you choose Edgewood and the Cutting Edge program?

Tyler Newberry:

Because I really like the mission statement of the college, that they want to build-- And that's really what I wanted to do my whole life, to like values that I really appreciate. So I run both of my businesses by that. I just want to make life better for other people. So I just want to make life better for people that need help, make life more enjoyable for people.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, you've been there at Edgewood now for three years. That means you must like it a lot. What's the best part about it?

Tyler Newberry:

Well, I manage the basketball team with my friend Noah, so I really like that. And I took this class with my professor named Elaine--, and I really like that one. I like to do business courses, marketing, business management, all those. The most enjoyable part was probably delving into the business part for me, because I love business so much. So that was the greatest part of college for me so far.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, Dr. Hafner, the students live in the dorms on campus, or off campus, and what kind of support do they have in the campus community toward this kind of independence?

Dedra Hafner:

It's a really good question. One of the things that we have on campus is a peer mentor program. And it was something that we started for the Cutting Edge so that our students would have people that are college students that would really help facilitate the inclusion. So, every semester we have about 50 to 60 students, college students, graduates and undergraduates, who are kind of taking on different roles with the students. But their most important job is to helping the students fit into college. And that comes much better from a peer rather than from me as a professor, kind of saying, okay, do this. And so it's really wonderful to see the things that college students will do and come up with, ways of kind of being very creative in their problem-solving with our students. And it works. So it's a very exciting piece to have for both sides.

Frederica Freyberg:

It's difficult for every parent to send their young freshmen off to college, but what is it like for people like Tyler's parents or others who have been so involved in their kid's life, and then all of a sudden they go off and they're living in dorms and going to dining halls. What is that like?

Dedra Hafner:

It's an interesting piece. And in many ways it's very much the same as everyone that sends their kids off to college. It's that same kind of experience. But you're right, these are parents who have been advocating for their children all their life, you know, and they're able to get the things that they have, because their parents have really worked to get it. And now all of a sudden it's time to let go and sometimes that can be a little tough for both the student and the parent. Sometimes we'll have students that, now that we have Skype, they've been able to Skype their parents every night. Sometimes I know initially the parents, they'll call and contact each other a couple of times a day. Then we get into the semester, and then all of a sudden it's like the parents say, well, I haven't heard from my son in about three days. You know, the phone will ring. They'll look and say, that's just my dad, and they put the phone down. So you can tell they've taken this shift of I don't need to have my parents in order to be successful.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, the students in Cutting Edge, do they pursue bachelor's degrees or certificates?

Dedra Hafner:

Most of our students come in as nondegree-seeking students, that's really for students like Noah, who want to have that college experience. And what we're able to do is we work with faculty in terms of classes that they're interested in doing. And then it's an audit, which is a little bit different from a traditional audit. What we do, is we still want them to be involved in the classes, in the discussions, but the assignments might be different. And so if it's a ten-page paper, we might break it down to a two-page paper that someone's working on. For some students, the professors are just kind of, will ask, okay, what kind of grade would they have gotten that they would have passed at the same time.

Frederica Freyberg:

I want to give our last question to Tyler, and that is I want to ask you when you're finished with this program at Edgewood, what do you want to do?

Tyler Newberry:

That's a really good question. A while back, my sophomore year in high school, I used to manage football and basketball, like Noah, and they wanted to give me a nickname, because they were tired of calling me Tyler all the time. I told them you can call me Ty, everybody call me Ty, and they didn't like that. So I told them to come up with something and throw it at me, and I'll see if I like it. So they came back with T-bone Steak at first. I'm like, no, I don't like that. Then they came out with T-Money. I was like, I really like that. So from there it just took off. And everybody knows me by the name of T-Money, and no one calls me Tyler anymore. It's always T-Money. Every time someone wants to get my attention, T-Money. I don't know Tyler anymore. So I try to kind of like turn that into a brand nowadays. So I can start making T-Money hats. They're really popular around Edgewood. Everybody in Edgewood has one. Me and my parents are working on different outlets. I met a lot of people that really want to help me with my brand, help me take it off. So I'm probably going to do that. Hopefully by next year, it will all be kind of together, and I can start selling.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Well, T-Money, good luck with that and thank you very much for joining us.

Tyler Newberry:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Dr. Hafner, thank you.

Dedra Hafner:

Great.

Frederica Freyberg:    

The Edgewood College Cutting Edge program has an open house this coming Monday on the campus. You can find a link to that information on our website at wpt.org/hereandnow. And this note, 35 students have completed the program to date. 82% of them are employed. And 40% continue to pursue higher education.


We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comment or story suggestion.

Get to know the Here and Now crew.

Find information on elections and candidates and connect to coverage from Wisconsin Public Television and Radio.