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For Immediate Release
May 06, 2016

Students 'Bridge' Education and Careers as Part of IPFW Program

Students 'Bridge' Education and Careers as Part of IPFW Program Image 1
Loretta Deinenger and Cameron Shomo Print-quality image

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—A special program at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) is helping students make the transition to college. Bridges to Education and Careers at IPFW is a federally funded program for students with intellectual disabilities who have completed high school, with a diploma or Certificate of Completion, and are ready to begin college.

“Our primary emphasis is educational enrichment and paving a road to employment,” says Suzanna Yuhasz, director of the Bridges program at IPFW.

Students in the Bridges program work with peer mentors who help them navigate their new school experience and integrate into student life, encouraging the students to become involved in a full and complete collegiate experience.

Classes are integrated and three course options are recommended to Bridges students, who may choose to participate in those best suited to their needs. Future courses are anticipated to include English, Math, and Communications beginning in fall 2016. Student housing is available for Bridges program students.

Cameron Shomo is one of the first IPFW Bridges students. Shomo attributes his success at IPFW to the program support he has received along the way, especially from Loretta Deininger, one of the Bridges peer mentors.

Shomo is interested in the culinary arts and hopes to have a career in hospitality and tourism management. An avid basketball fan, Shomo volunteers as a manager for the Snyder High School basketball team and has an impressive résumé of work experience at Sweetwater, Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control, and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, and he is also involved with Special Olympics.

“I just want anyone interested in going to college to take a look at the Bridges program,” said Shomo.

Deininger and Shomo have a regular routine of taking part in campus events, hanging out, doing homework, and playing basketball together.

“Loretta helps me with everything she can,” says Shomo. “She is a good friend and a great peer mentor.”

Deininger adds: “I really like how capable the Bridges students are in getting to know their goals. The best part of my job is helping students be comfortable in the college environment.”

The first step for students interested in participating in the Bridges program is to complete an application. Potential students will then be contacted to schedule an interview. The Bridges program recommends three courses that all program students participate in:

  • Transition program students focus on self-advocacy and communication skills: technology skills, improving academic success strategies, and navigating the college campus environment
  • Personal Development* course students learn skills to build independence and enhance their daily life, and professional development to prepare for employment.
  • Culinary Arts* course students focus on culinary skills and food safety standards.  This course includes the exam for Servsafe® certification.

“Students have the opportunity to learn study techniques and gain experiences to prepare for future employment which may include internships, job shadowing, or job coaching,” said Eric Norman, dean of students and interim chief of staff at IPFW, who teaches the Personal Development course and sits on the committee that oversees the Bridges grant.

The Bridges program is now accepting applications for fall 2016. Applications are available online or can be mailed upon request. One of the appendices to the application is the most recent evaluation report; more information about disability documentation is available here, If you have any questions, contact the Bridges program at 260-481-6592 or yuhaszs@ipfw.edu.

*Course fees apply

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