MAICEI program opens opportunities to special education students

Raul “Anthony” Marcano and Avery-Paul Bowen are part of ARHS’s MAICEI program.Photo: Crystal Carwright

The Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) allows students who might not otherwise be able to attend college to audit one college class per semester.

In this work, “Massachusetts is a leader,” said Crystal Cartwright, the vocational coordinator and a counselor at ARHS.

“We have 13 (partnering universities and colleges) across Massachusetts,” she said.

Amherst Regional High School has been participating since the program was introduced in 2013.

There are currently four students enrolled from ARHS in the MAICEI program: one at UMass Amherst and three at Westfield State University.

The students audit one class per semester and can be eligible to receive accommodations and modifications.

While the opportunity to engage in an academic setting outside of high school is a main component, another goal of this program is to encourage independence and foster a sense of workplace responsibility.

“The students have to be diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability, which is a very underemployed population,” said Ms. Cartwright.

“That’s why we have these programs, to teach these skills to hopefully [help them] get competitive employment someday,” she said.

The criteria for entrance into the program requires the student to be between the ages of 18 and 22.

They may not have passed MCAS and are eligible for special education services as documented through an Individual Education Program (IEP).

There are also students in the program who may have passed MCAS.

However, they are still eligible for special education services with an IEP because of factors like significant functional disabilities or transitional needs.

The students participate in on-campus activities during regular high school hours three days a week. Activities vary from person to person.

However, some of the activities may include watching movies, joining clubs, working out, and taking exercise classes.

Students complete course assignments and take public transportation to and from campus.

As a part of transition services, the MAICEI program helps with post-secondary education and training.

It is intended to help find and secure employment, independent living, independent travel, paid work, and internships.

An educational coach assists them in their classes and activities.

“There is more flexibility with that where there may be one staff with two students but the staff has to go to class with them to be an education support person,” said Ms. Cartwright.

“It is kind of like when you see paras around the high school, just at college,” she said.

Some of the courses that students have taken are Pre-Calculus, Music Appreciation, Public Speaking, Therapeutic Exercise, Criminal Justice, Acting and many more.

The classes are intended to increase individual skills in a vision that they carry for themselves for the future.

Raul “Anthony” Marcano and Avery-Paul Bowen both attend Westfield State through the MAICEI program.

They both enjoy attending. “For me, I say I love it!” said Marcano.

“We get to try out some new things such as events like bowling or video game night out,” he said.

Marcano is on the autism spectrum and is a very hard worker. He travels to Westfield three times a week.

He is in the second year of the program and is taking a public speaking class.

They recently finished writing commencement speeches and are covering the topic of TED Talks.

“I wrote a speech about fears. I actually revealed what disability I have and what made me inspired to start speaking out to everyone in the world,” said Marcano.

Bowen, on the other hand, is taking and enjoying a class in music.

One of the things that the students do is participate in workshops that teach them how to be good employees.

“They are showing us how to become a professional worker,” said Marcano.

This program allows them to work towards that goal, and it allows them to feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Ms. Cartwright said “she is so proud [of them.]”

“If it wasn’t for this program, these students wouldn’t have a chance to go to college, because they don’t earn a high school diploma.”

After classes are over, Bowen and Marcano go to the Dining Commons where they “eat lunch and chat with our friends.”

Next to the classes that the students are currently enrolled in, they are also doing internships on and off campus.

“Most days they are out in the community building their skills, becoming as independent as possible as adults,” said Ms. Cartwright.