COLLEGE STATION, TX — Upon opening a long-expected letter, ten people learned last week that they had been accepted into Texas A&M University’s Aggie ACHIEVE program.
Aggie ACHIEVE, founded in 2019, is an immersive experience for adults with developmental disabilities, which allows them to obtain a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas A&M University. The four-year program will help students in obtaining their desired careers upon graduation.
"Our students are students with multiple disabilities that want the college experience just like anyone else," said Dr. Olivia Hester, program director for Aggie ACHIEVE. "And so they take college courses here on campus, they live on campus, and they’re working towards a certificate in interdisciplinary studies from Texas A&M.”
Hester explained that the admission process is competitive, as the program is still quite small. Approximately 70 people applied to attend Texas A&M’s fall 2021 semester through Aggie ACHIEVE, and only ten were accepted; the largest class size since the program's genesis.
"It is a very difficult decision, especially when we have so many applicants," said Hester. "... We go through and invite the next round of applicants and ask them to do Zoom interviews with us. We ask that only the student is on [the call], to get a better feel of the student and see whether this something they really want. Do they want to go to college, or does their parent want them to go to college?”
Joshua Ellis of Taylor is 20-years-old and was just accepted into Aggie ACHIEVE for the coming fall semester.
"My parents told me [I was accepted]," Ellis recalled. "We had been out to eat at Red Lobster, and out of nowhere, my parents pulled out the paper that said I was accepted... I was really excited - I kind of wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of a lot of people.”
Ellis aims to work in the profession of athletic training, as he has an affinity for sports; especially football. Like his nine counterparts, Ellis will be living away from home in a campus dorm for the first time. He’ll have multiple opportunities to participate in internships that align with his career goals and will take courses geared towards his field of study.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was little," Ellis said. "I’ve always wanted to go to college.”
The program is not free. As Aggie ACHIEVE does not receive funding from the university or state, a yearly $30,000 is charged to each student.
"We wanted our students to have everything that other Texas A&M students have access to, like the REC center, the student health center, counseling center, football games - all those things," said Hester. "And, that also includes housing and a meal plan.”
Though Aggie ACHIEVE did recently receive a large grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Hester said she hopes the Aggie community will continue to support the students of Aggie ACHIEVE by donating to scholarship funds. Anyone interested in contributing or learning more about the program can visit their official website, right here.