UMKC program propels students with developmental disabilities towards a bright future

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Most parents dream big for their children and look forward to the day they set off for college. That dream has not always been an option for students with developmental disabilities.

Now there’s a program at UMKC promising to propel a new group of students toward a bright future.

For Dominic Whitley, it’s one of his first assignments as a college student.

“I’m building the foundation down and I’ll build the tower up as tall as I can get it,” he said.

They’re right in the middle of orientation week for UMKC’s first group of Propel students. That’s a two-year college experience program for people with intellectual developmental disabilities.

Even though Anna Rueschhoff received an acceptance letter, college was still a dream. Her parents recorded her reading the letter, the reaction was priceless.

In fact, Rueschhoff’s reaction mirrors that of Roselyn Turner when her son Austin was accepted.

“I have to tell you, as a parent with a son with autism and Austin’s dad is deceased, I have to teach my son how to live and to enjoy the quality of life he now has,” said Turner.

A five- year federal grant worth nearly $2 million allowed these 15 students go to college. It’s opening doors for Whitley, who is dreaming big.

“I love computers. I’d love to do computer science,” he said with a smile.