Alabama A&M University Bulldog Learning Independence Fostering Education and Employment for Young Adults with an Intellectual Disability

Sharon Brown, Ph.D., CRC, associate professor/coordinator of Rehabilitation Counseling/director of Bulldog LIFE

Sharon Brown, Ph.D., CRC, associate professor/coordinator of Rehabilitation Counseling/director of Bulldog LIFE

For those that did not know, Alabama Agricultural Mechanical University started Bulldog Learning Independence Fostering Education and Employment (LIFE) in 2017, and out of 285 Postsecondary programs for young adults with intellectual disabilities in the nation, AM is the first and only historically black college and university who hold this distinction.  

How Bulldog LIFE was started? Our proposal to the Alabama Council on Disabilities was funded in the amount of $225, 000, in collaboration with the University of Memphis Institute on Disabilities (UMID) was established.

Dr. Sharon Brown the Director of the program said we spent two to three years putting the infrastructure in place and received our first cohort in 2018. Prior to accepting our first students, we achieved federal status in obtaining the College Transition Program CTP status with the Department of Education which permits students that are eligible to receive the Pell Grant. Based on the CTP, students are eligible to receive a scholarship in the amount of $1,700 for two semesters from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services ADRS.

Our first cohort finished their Certificate of Completion in May 2020 and COVID-19 hit which hampered our recruitment efforts with the local schools, but with our Huntsville City School contacts, we have continued to make progress using Zoom and technology to recruit young people for Bulldog LIFE.

In a recent meeting with Mrs. Sheila Johnson, who is the Graduation Coach at Mae C. Jemison High School said “we are ecstatic that our students are afforded the opportunity to take advantage of this program.” We are appreciative that there is a program like Bulldog LIFE in Huntsville that our students can take advantage of.

Overview/Program Description: What is the Bulldog LIFE program?

Bulldogs Learning Independence, Fostering Employment & Education (LIFE)

The Alabama A&M Bulldog LIFE Postsecondary Education Program is a 60-hour program culminating in a completion award certificate in Career and Community Studies.  Participation in the Bulldog LIFE program provides students with an option for continuing their education beyond high school to increase employment opportunities.  The program provides an individualized program of study in the areas of academic, social, vocational and independent living skills for students ages 18-29 with intellectual disabilities. Bulldog LIFE as a part of its application process requires the student to provide a copy of secondary transcript, secondary IEP, and any psychological or vocational assessments that confirm that the student has received a diagnosis as a intellectual disability.  Persons with intellectual disabilities are defined in HEA Sec. 484(s) who (1) have a cognitive impairment characterized by significant limitations in intellectual and cognitive functioning and adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills; and (2) are currently or were formerly eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This includes individuals who were determined eligible for special education or related services under IDEA but were homeschooled or attended private school.  At the heart of Bulldog LIFE is a person-centered planning model that uses the Systems Approach to Placement (SAP defined see p. 5) assessment instrument to develop a specialized program that best fits the unique skills, abilities, and needs of each student admitted into the program. The Bulldog LIFE program is administered by the Alabama A&M Rehabilitation Counseling Concentration whose purpose is to assist people with physical and developmental disabilities in finding meaningful and lasting employment, and serves as a community rehabilitation provider (CRP) for mid-south regional area vocational rehabilitation departments in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.