USA (MNN) — The transition to adulthood is a difficult
one. When you add the challenges faced
by teens with developmental disabilities, that process becomes even more pronounced.
The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
notes that "young people with disabilities need a support system that
recognizes their individual strengths, interests, fears, and dreams and allows
them to take charge of their future."
Michael Lowstetter with Shepherd's Ministries says that's
why Shepherds College was founded. "This is a fairly new concept, but yet, one that solves a really
big problem in the area of transition from high school and potentially living
with mom and dad, out to the work force and living in the community."
It's a three-year program for young people with
developmental disabilities, and it's growing. Students can pursue either culinary arts or horticulture.
For example, in the Culinary Arts major, students learn about
a wide variety of food service occupations from fast food to catering. Course work will include culinary skills,
institutional cooking, fast food, sanitation and nutrition.
Horticulture majors will learn floral design,
landscaping, nursery and garden operations, equipment maintenance, green house plant
production and work safety precautions.
As part of their training, Shepherds College includes a Life
Skills curriculum. This provides
students educational opportunities that have a strong Biblical emphasis. Young
people learn how to prepare meals, shop for groceries while maintaining a
budget, care for clothing, maintain a clean apartment, and practice
personal care, health, and safety skills.
Because a program like this is rare, there's a lot of
interest in it. In the two years since Shepherds College launched, Lowstetter says they have two years' worth of students, and
they're looking at a third year coming in August.
While that's a good thing, it requires more space. Lowstetter
explains, "We're going to be outgrowing that with this recruiting class.
So, we're in the process of building two single-story 3,000-square-foot residential facilities for the incoming class."
Students at Shepherds
College have many chances to discover the God that has designed them and
to investigate the specific purpose He has for them.
Each semester, there are classes
centered on the Bible and its practical application. Weekly chapel
services and meetings with a spiritual mentor will also be part of the
Shepherds College program. In addition, students will
be encouraged to attend a local church and actively participate in
More than a $1.5 million
dollar investment, it's about relationship with Christ and discipleship. Lowstetter says, "It doesn't all come
from our faculty and staff. We've started seeing college students interacting
and sharing and working to help grow other college students."