Newspaper Article: HS Students Attend College Day at Penn State Schuylkill

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Students with learning disabilities visit Penn State
By Leslie Richardson Staff writerRepublican-Herald, Pottsville
Published: December 2, 2009

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN – Students with learning disabilities sometimes find it difficult to get through high school and rely on help from programs designed to meet their needs, officials say.On Tuesday, students with learning difficulties who are interested in attending college were invited to experience campus life and find out what help is available during College Day at Penn State Schuylkill.“The event is to offer high school juniors and seniors with disabilities a chance to experience college for a day,” said Melinda Anthony Spolski, coordinator of counseling and disability services at Penn State. “Hopefully they will take away from this what they need to be doing now to prepare for the college transition.“The first College Day event was held last year at Lehigh Carbon Community College. About 70 students attended this year’s event hosted by Penn State Schuylkill and sponsored by Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 and the Schuylkill County Transition Coordinating Council.All of the county districts’ high school juniors and seniors with individualized education plans – plans set to establish goals for a child with educational needs during the school year and any special support needed to help achieve the goals – were invited to attend.“Knowledge is power and there are different laws that affect students with IEPs, and they need to know that IEPs do not follow them to college,” said IU employee Melanie Wagner, who provides training and consultation in the area of transition.

Wagner said the transition council, made up of IU staff, district teachers and social service agencies, meets four times a year and sets up events for students with learning disabilities to ensure a seamless transition from high school to either college, the work force or assisted living.“Some of these students might have a reading or math disability and may require extra time for test taking or a device to assist them,” Wagner said. “Others might need a note-taker.“On Tuesday, the students toured the campus, attended classes and spoke with current Penn State students with learning disabilities.“It was good to hear what some of the students had to say,” said Josh, a senior from Pottsville.On Tuesday, the high schoolers also did some college research online and met with members of the campus disability services staff.“It was good to know that there are different ways that colleges will help you,” said Gary, a senior at Mahanoy Area. “This helped us realize that there is help for us at college and where we need to go to get it.”“This is not going to be like high school, when you can just ask for another test,” Rachel, a Mahanoy Area junior, said. Teachers who accompanied students Tuesday said modifications were made for the students throughout the four years of high school in response to their learning difficulties. In college, accommodations are made only when sought out by the student.“For some students, this was an eye-opening experience,” said Mahanoy Area Special Education teacher Casey Moyer. “They learned their IEPs don’t come with them and they need to get in touch with disability services when they get here to get the help they need. In high school this is all done for them. They learned today that there is help available but they need seek help if they need it and talking to disability services early is important.”