COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – College graduation is a proud achievement for any student. But, for a group of Colorado students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it is a major milestone.
Nick Harmon is among the trailblazers.
“I’m way cool now,” he told CBS4’s Shaun Boyd with the swagger of a typical college student.
But Nick’s graduation from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is anything but typical.
“I feel excited. It’s good,” he said of the momentous occasion.
Nick is one of six students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who is making history in Colorado. They are the first to graduate from an inclusive in-state college.
“We have students going into health care, education, advocacy,” said Tracy Murphy, Executive Director of the Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Education.
The non-profit coordinates the program that is aimed at giving students like Nick the full college experience.
“Some parties, baseball, soccer ooh man,” Nick said, describing his packed social calendar.
But, most importantly, the program offers him opportunity, something he didn’t have four years ago. Colorado was one of the only states without a single inclusive higher ed campus.
Today, there are three in the state: CU Colorado Springs, the University of Northern Colorado and Arapahoe Community College. They started with 12 students four years ago and this fall will have 90 students.
Nick helped create the Office of Inclusive Services on campus. Among other things, it connects students with and without disabilities.
“I have a mentor helps me out assignments,” Nick said.
Murphy said the benefits for students who don’t have a disability are also significant.
“They’re seeing these students as classmates, study buddies, co-workers and friends,” said Murphy.
She hopes it is the beginning of more transformative change.
Nick says all his life people told him he couldn’t go to college.
“Here I am,” is his response.
He is graduating with a comprehensive higher education certificate in photojournalism.
“I’m going to take your job,” he told Boyd, who doesn’t doubt it for a minute.