By Daniella Daou
In the midst of challenges, despair, and uncertainty surrounding our country, ten young people gave their parents, educators, and peers hope: hope of a brighter future and hope for endless possibilities. The first IDEAL graduation crowned the two-year university certificate program with success as the second-year learners went on stage with hundreds of their peers from regular undergraduate programs to celebrate their academic achievement. This is a dream come true for all parents of children with special needs who never thought they would see their children on a university graduation stage in a country where special education is not mandated in secondary and higher education.
The graduates were saluted by the president of the Notre Dame University in his speech for their dedication and for the spirit that they have created on campus. In addition, the valedictorian, a peer mentor for our students for two years, spoke highly of the difference the IDEAL Program made in his and his peers’ lives on campus as they added kindness, dedication, and inclusivity to their classes and job placements.
As our learners graduate, SKILD will continue to walk alongside them to find suitable job opportunities for their skills and provide workshops and guidance for their employers. The next natural frontier – after embarking on journeys with parents, educators, in schools, and higher education – is inclusion in the workplace to make sure that following securing the right of every child with special needs to education, he/she also exercises his/her right to work. Together, we can make sure that every child with special needs grows up to be an independent productive citizen.
A Higher Education for Students with Learning Differences
The IDEAL Program, implemented by SKILD Center and NDU, is a two-year university program that leads to a certificate, under the supervision of LIPSCOMB university. It is intended to empower students with intellectual and/or developmental challenges in Lebanon and the Arab region.