Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn’s EAGLES program expands to offer students four-year option next fall

<p>EAGLES program students pose for a photo in front of Samford Hall in Auburn, Ala.</p>

EAGLES program students pose for a photo in front of Samford Hall in Auburn, Ala.

 A portion of the Auburn Creed reads, “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”

One organization is working to put this statement into action, providing everyone a chance at pursuing higher education. 

The Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success program gives young adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to have an immersive college experience.

“Our four overarching goals are employment development, academic enrichment, personal-social skill development and independent-living skills,” said Betty Patten, director of the program.

EAGLES currently offers a two-year program with the students living in on-campus housing. However, Patten said a four-year program is on the horizon.

“This won’t go into effect until next fall,” she said. “We’ll help those [students] who were invited back to attend secure off-campus housing, and they’ll still be enrolled in classes and attend programmatic events, however, they won’t have as much support.” 

She said students accepted into the two-year program won’t necessarily participate in the third and fourth years.

“Students will be offered an invitation to return, so it’ll be offered to those who have demonstrated through a rating scale that they can live semi-independently with minimal support,” Patten said.

Those who are accepted into the advanced program will not be required to live with other EAGLES students, she said.

“Students will have the option to live off campus in an apartment with peers that aren’t necessarily a part of our program,” Patten said. “There will be support in a sense that we can check in with them, but nobody will be living with them that’s on staff for the program.”

The two-year program launched in August 2018. Patten said she thinks the program allows these students the chance to grow and become ready to transition into life as an adult.

“College is that time where people, with and without disabilities, are able to have an opportunity to discover more about themselves,” she said. “[College] is that time of self-discovery. You’re working out what you want to do with the rest of your life.”

Patten added that the program, which currently has eight students, encourages them to further develop their skills, rather than transitioning from high school into work. 

She said the University serves as a prime setting for this type of development to occur. 

“I feel like [Auburn] is just the perfect environment,” she said. “They’re so included. They’ve been embraced. They just need more support to really cultivate those skills.” 

Patten said there is a structured curriculum for students in the program, something that is slightly different than that of other college students. 

“The classes are all picked for them because they’re learning how to transition to college life without their parents, without their caretakers,” she said.

Patten said they plan to expand on the variety of classes offered going forward with the four-year plan, although they have not quite worked out all of the logistics. 

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Auburn Plainsman delivered to your inbox

“They’ll have a lot of choice. That’s the goal — to increase our partnerships with other colleges and schools on campus,” she said. 

On inclusivity, Patten said it is important to make the EAGLES students feel like part of the student body as much as possible.

“Doing something with a group of people who are considered a ‘typical student’ is not inclusion,” she said. “Inclusion is having every opportunity to engage in the same activities that traditional students would engage in naturally.” 

Patten said she is humbled by the support EAGLES has received from the University and the community’s willingness to be involved.

“The Auburn Family has just truly embraced the program,” she said. “We have a student who is a part of AU Singers. I see [the program] naturally branching out into some of those more selective-type programs where naturally, it’s competitive.” 

Because of personal life experiences, Patten said she works every day to promote the program and provide students with as many opportunities as possible. 

“I feel like I was born an advocate, born in a way that I just speak up for injustice and things that happen,” she said. “Primarily, it’s been targeted toward people who need help speaking up for themselves.”

Share and discuss “Auburn’s EAGLES program expands to offer students four-year option next fall” on social media.