Oklahoma State is taking steps to further welcome those with intellectual disabilities to the Cowboy family.
Senator Logan Hutto introduced a bill to the Student Government Association Senate floor on Wednesday about a program called LeadLearnLive.
LeadLearnLive is a holistic approach to integrating students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) into college and adult life alongside their peers. It encourages growth through independent living, developing social skills, career development and physical fitness.
Founder and board president of the non-profit, Julie Lackey, also attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the program and how it has impacted students at Northeastern State University.
Lackey explained that students with IDDs often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. The goal of LeadLearnLive is to help fully acclimate them to college life among their peers and encourage future career success.
Since 2012, Lackey has been working with students at NSU to make the program a success. It currently has between 6-8 students.
From the time she began, she knew what she had created was something to be proud of, which is why she wants it to be implemented at her own alma mater.
“This program can make a huge life-changing difference,” Lackey said.
She noted that just this past year OU started a similar program. While she loves to see the inclusion, she felt a pang of jealousy that Oklahoma State itself hadn’t implemented one prior.
Looking forward, she believes OSU’s program could have around 10-15 students, not including staff and other volunteers.
While this may not seem like many students, Lackey explained that the groups have to stay smaller due to the intensive nature of interactions being provided.
Not only is the program a great opportunity for the students it is geared toward enriching, but student volunteers would also see an improvement in their wellbeing. Lackey notes that these interactions make a person more knowledgeable and well rounded, making them even better equipped for the career world.
If fully implemented at OSU, this program will only be the third of its kind in Oklahoma. Think College, a national organization pursuing greater opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities, currently identifies 284 similar programs nationwide.
“Oklahoma is definitely behind the curve,” Lackey said.
The resolution passed unanimously by a vote of 34-0.