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Brotherly Love: A College Experience For Intellectually Disabled Adults

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(credit: CBS) Jessica Dean
Jessica Dean is co-anchor with Chris May of CBS 3’s Eyewitness New...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A college experience might seem out of reach for adults with intellectual disabilities. But thanks to a program at Temple University, some of those people are finding themselves on campus and in class.

Shawn Aleong, 26, loves chatting with everyone on his college campus.

“It’s wonderful,” he said.

Shawn has cerebral palsy and is developmentally disabled. He might not be enjoying campus life were it not for Lawrence Watling. Lawrence is Shawn’s mentor, a part-time job at Temple’s Academy for Adult Learning.

“Wow, what a great idea to spend my time in college helping somebody else get acclimated to the college social scene,” said Lawrence.

All students in the program get a mentor to help them. They’re required to take two classes a semester and do homework like everyone else.

“So basically, I’m just a regular college student,” Shawn said.

Kathy Miller, the director of the program, says students don’t get grades and work within their limits.

“If there are four quizzes, perhaps our students will do one quiz,” she said.

“He may need a little more guidance with certain tasks,” Lawrence said, “but overall, he’s one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met.”

Student Sarah Daley volunteers with the Academy for Adult Learning as part of a class she’s taking.

“It’s a really rewarding experience for me,” she said. “It’s also just a lot of fun. Sometimes I forget that I’m volunteering because you’re hanging out with friends and getting to know people.”

Shawn and other students in the program took part in a job skills seminar.  Shawn is also finishing an on-campus internship, and will graduate from the four-semester program this year. He hopes to someday to work in criminal law. Until then, he’s enjoying his time with Lawrence, one of the many mentors who go above and beyond the required 10 hours a week.

“I’ve made a really close friend who I am going to be close with for the rest of my life,” Lawrence said.

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