The University of Toledo Transition program is a two- or four-year postsecondary program designed to help people living with physical and cognitive disabilities attend college courses and gain job skills.
The program started five years ago and is unique to every student, allowing for individualized class schedules and work experience to help students gain the knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen fields, according to Patricia Devlin, the founder of the UT program.
Danny Napoli, a third-year student studying business in the program, said the people running T² are great to work with.
“Gillham Hall is just the best,” Napoli said. “They care so much about their students, they’ll do anything for them.”
Napoli said that he has autism and is studying business in T² with the goal of owning a comic book shop one day.
“I just go to classes, I have fun with T²,” Napoli said. “I have teachers who really care about me.”
He is the first student in the program to join a fraternity and live on campus, staying in the Pi Kappa Phi house in McComas Village.
It was through Pi Kappa Phi that Christian Nopper, a fourth-year disability studies major, met Napoli and the two became friends.
“I am a year older than Danny, and he came in for recruitment in 2015. Ever since then, Danny has just kind of grown with us,” Nopper said. “We have just kind of become really good friends, we have bonded over a lot of things. I’m Batman, he’s Superman; we coincide.”
Napoli was also voted as homecoming king in 2017 through Pi Kappa Phi. He has been a member of the fraternity for two and a half years, a semester after Nopper joined.
“I bet you felt like king of the world when you won,” Nopper said to Napoli.
“Yeah it was pretty amazing,” Napoli replied, smiling.
Devlin stated that following Napoli’s example she hopes to expand the program to offer on-campus housing to everyone by fall 2019.
This is also the first year that T² has been funded through the university, according to Devlin.
“This is the first time they can actually recruit,” Nopper said. “Before they weren’t recruiting because they weren’t sure where the program was going, but now they are federally recognized and so they had their first recruitment event, where it’s not just people talking parent-to-parent.”
Devlin said that the program was started through grant money given to her by Margo Izzo, at the OSU Nisonger Center. Izzo received money, according to Devlin, to help create similar transition programs through the Reauthorization of Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.
“[HEOA] opened the door for this population to be on a college campus,” Devlin said. “It also created a coordinating center... and some SEED money for institutions to then create demonstration projects for these people.”
However, in 2018 Devlin said the grant money was running out.
She stated that it was only through the help of parents and the support of UT President Sharon Gaber that the UT Foundation was able to get involved and help funding to continue the program.
Ohio currently has seven other programs similar to T², according to Devlin, and 250 nationwide.
When the program transitioned to being funded through UT, a number of changes occurred, including initiating an entry fee similar to the tuition an incoming freshman would pay, Devlin said.
Devlin went on to say that other than funding, the program hasn’t hit any serious road blocks except when it comes to getting T² full access to campus.
Because T² students don’t have a typical class schedule, Devlin said, and the students don’t graduate with degrees, it has been hard to gain access to facilities reserved for full-time students, such as the Rec Center.
However, Devlin said that it was always as simple as making a phone call, and her students were given access.
Not only does Napoli live on campus, but he said he is also one of the first students in the program to work in a paid position, working at UT Admissions.
“It’s about having a career,” Nopper said, “not about finding a job.”
All of the students have schedules that are part work experience, part class time and part T² courses, Devlin said. She said there are different parts to the program, including academic, vocational and self-determination aspects.
“They’ll have specialized classes; students pick out classes based on what they are going into in the future.” Devlin said.
She also said that other students outside of the program and disability studies are becoming more involved in T².
“When you think about this campus, you think about how it’s really a community with all of these disciplines that can really take advantage of this particular population,” Devlin said.
One example, Devlin said, is how a health and fitness student at UT this semester is doing her capstone project through T².
“She’s creating all of these programs that are going to help her in the future and creating all these personalized fitness programs for some of my students who really need it,” Devlin said.
She also explained how all of her students enjoy the course and have always worked well with other UT students who get involved in the program.
This is including education coaches, Devlin said, who are UT students who get paid to go to certain classes with the students in T².
Devlin said that on Thursday, April 26 the Transition program is holding a college experience program to educate alumni about the program. The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the Schmakel Room of the Driscoll Alumni Center. It is free for alumni, and guests and community members are encouraged to attend.