With their goals set on studying social services, education and other fields, six new UCF students started classes this semester as part of the university’s first inclusive education program for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The program’s goal is to present the students with immersive academic and campus experiences to prepare them for enriched and independent lives. So, as many students do, the six also are exploring job and volunteer opportunities on campus to round out their postsecondary experience.

Adam Meyer, acting director of Inclusive Education Services overseeing the program, said the four women and two men were chosen from the applicants because of “their passion for academics and further education, and desire to have a career upon program completion.”

All six of the students are from Florida – the farthest coming from Vero Beach and Spring Hill – and five of them will live in residence halls on campus. Their ages range from 19 to 32.

In addition to social services and education, the students also want to pursue athletic training, theater, music and teaching children with disabilities.

Meyer said the pilot program plans to expand next fall, but no decision has been made on how many students would be accepted. Six resource facilitators also are working with the group as student peer mentors.

When accepting students for the program, the university used the definition of “intellectual disability” adapted from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: In general, intellectual disability involves differences in a variety of cognitive abilities that impact adaptive functioning and behavior. Adaptive behavior is the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that are learned and performed by people in their everyday lives.

UCF’s six-semester program is part of the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.

For more information about the program, go to http://ies.sdes.ucf.edu/.