Aiken, S.C. (WJBF)- Soon, students with intellectual disabilities will have a local option to further their education. The USC Aiken Pacer LIFE program prepares those students to be able to work and live more independently. This is only the 6th program of its kind in South Carolina.
Typically you would find a LIFE program at larger universities like Clemson. It teaches these young adults skills like cooking, laundry and banking all while allowing them to just be college students.
“They will be full time college students, so they will have access to all the clubs, all the student organizations. They can be leaders on our campus,” said Melissa Martin, Pacer LIFE Program Coordinator.
Pacer LIFE is a two year residential postsecondary program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At the end of their two years they will earn an employment credential called a Pacer Credential.
Martin said the program will give these students opportunities they may not otherwise have.
“It’s called Promoting Academic and Community and Employment Readiness and our students will earn that to say that they are job ready and that they can live on their own,” she explained.
The program, which has 19 students for it’s first year, is tailored to each student’s abilities and job goals.
Jarius Roddey is a senior at North Augusta High School and he was accepted into the Pacer LIFE Program for the Fall. He said he is ready for college.
“I feel happy. I feel happy,” he said when asked how he felt about being accepted.
His mother Latrice Carpenter told NewsChannel 6 that the family was very excited when he got his acceptance call.
“We were hoping and praying that we got the call. We were expecting it in March and it came a little bit before, so we were very excited. And still are. We’re ready.” she smiled.
Carpenter explained that she worried for years about what would happen after Jarius graduated from high school. Now, she is grateful for the opportunity and relieved she doesn’t have to worry as much.
“I just really feel like they are going to start to blossom, and this is their true beginning. And I just can’t wait to see what God has in store for, not only Jarius, but for all of the candidates that got in,” said Carpenter.
As for Jarius, he has big dreams for himself.
“I want to coach. I want to coach basketball.”
10 students from Aiken County were accepted into the USC Aiken Pacer LIFE Program and will begin their journey this coming Fall.
Photojournalist: Will Baker.