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K-State Today

November 30, 2016

Project EXCELL wins national award

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Four future teachers who taught Project EXCELL classes this session.

Project EXCELL, a K-State, community-based program designed for special needs adults, recently earned a national award for service to an underserved population. This is the third award the program has received since its inception in 2010. 

Project EXCELL received the 2016 Outstanding Service to Underserved Populations Award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education at its annual conference last month in New Orleans. 

The program is a partnership between the College of Education and UFM Community Learning Center, and the K-State Student Union donates the space for the classes. The college provides the professional expertise and majority of student volunteers, and UFM serves as the program's fiscal agent. 

Warren White, professor of special education, counseling and student affairs and College of Education director of assessment, said about 10 percent of students in a typical public school population have disabilities, and there are mandated services for them. However, once they graduate or age out at 21, no mandated adult services exist. That lack of services creates waiting lists for the limited services that are available, and in the case of the Manhattan area, the wait may exceed seven years.  

"We certainly never envisioned receiving a national award for Project EXCELL, but it is certainly rewarding to be recognized," White said. "This program is an excellent example of how K-State is fulfilling its land grant mission in the 21st Century."

Linda Teener, UFM executive director, said this semester's enrollment was the largest in program history with 64 students, about half coming from the Marysville-Greenleaf area. Two five-week sessions are offered each academic semester on Saturday mornings, and topics range from yoga and dance, countries around the world, social skills, tailgating games and more. 

"The coolest thing about Project EXCELL is to go on a Saturday morning and see how excited the students are to be here and how much they want to participate," Teener said. "They share and they learn from what they are doing, and they retain the information. It's really fun, exciting, and rewarding because it means so much to them."

Project EXCELL provides personal enrichment and life skill classes to adults 18 years and older with developmental disabilities. EXCELL is the first program in the Manhattan area to enable this population to have purposeful access to a college campus. It also provides the opportunity for EXCELL students and K-State students to grow and learn through interactions with each other. The program has a profound impact on the lives of the participants, allowing them to participate in the community, experience a college environment and develop employability skills.

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