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TigerLIFE Shows Students With Intellectual Disabilities the Road to Success

TigerLIFE Postsecondary Education Program, the largest program of its kind in Tennessee, is one of the ways the University of Memphis assists students with special needs. Participation in the TigerLIFE program provides students an option for continuing their education beyond high school in order to increase their employment opportunities. After completing the 60-hour program, culminating in a completion award in Career and Community Studies, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities will attain their maximum level of independence, become more employable, and increase their self-efficacy.

At the heart of TigerLIFE is a person-centered planning model that uses the Systems Approach to Placement assessment instrument to develop a specialized program that best fits the unique skills, abilities, and needs of each student admitted into the program. The TigerLIFE program is administered by the University of Memphis Institute on Disability (UMID), whose purpose is to assist people with physical and developmental disabilities in finding meaningful and lasting employment. The Institute serves as a community rehabilitation provider (CRP) for mid-south regional area vocational rehabilitation departments in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Coordinator of Operations, Aaron Boatwright, explains: “TigerLIFE is an outcome-oriented program that is focused on academic advancement and career placement for each student.  Successful program completion may result in direct job placement or admission into formal degree or other postsecondary programs at community colleges or accredited technical schools. All students develop greater independent living skills as a result of completing the program.”

Based on guidelines of the Think College national initiative, the goal of TigerLIFE is to support students in their quest for independence. Forty-nine students attend classes on the main campus of the University of Memphis between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with Friday serving as a service-learning day.

TigerLIFE leadership is currently provided through an Advisory Committee of hard working and dedicated individuals who deserve our thanks, including: Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist, Professor and Director of UMID; Dr. Laura Casey, Professor of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership; Ms. Tonyal Mathes, Transition Program Lead Teacher, Shelby County Schools; Ms. Pat Beane, Coordinator, Department of Exceptional Children, Shelby County Schools; Ms. Jamie R. Perry, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), Division of Rehabilitation Services - Memphis; and Mr. Maurice Williams, UMID Associate Director and PSE Transition Master Instructor.

The University of Memphis provides multiple pathways to success for many student populations. TigerLIFE is another great example of how the University of Memphis can partner with the Memphis community to meet critical needs.

Thanks to all those involved in this great work.

M. David Rudd, President

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