USA (MNN) — And, Shepherds Ministries is opening a program that will help the developmentally disabled in the U.S.–physically, mentally and spiritually.
It's called Shepherds College, says Tracy Terrill with Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, Wisconsin. There's currently nothing that provides postsecondary education to this segment of the population and no ministry geared for them, so Terrill views it as an "unreached people group."
"Young people with special needs can receive education from the public school system up until age twenty-one. But from that point on, there's not a whole lot for them," Terrill said. "Shepherds College hopes to fill that void and provide postsecondary education, give them some life skills training, and help point them toward a career with some vocational training."
Aiming to be an outreach to the developmentally disabled, Shepherds College provides more than just higher education.
"Shepherds College–since we're a Christian ministry–spiritual growth will be a large part of what we offer, as well," said Terrill.
Students will be encouraged to join a local church and become involved with its ministry. The college also hopes to provide spiritual mentors to meet one-on-one with each of the students and guide them through their spiritual growth. Bible-based classes in the Old and New Testament, as well as discipleship classes and personal Bible study, will be part of the curriculum.
Because currently there are no other programs offering the hope of Christ that Shepherds College will offer, Shepherds College is vitally important. "We don't know of anyone else that is doing this from a Christian perspective, and I think that really distinguishes us from some of the others," Terrill said.
"This is what we do. We work with this people group, and we have for fifty years. It's not something we're doing on the side. Our ministry is committed to helping and providing Christian care and compassion for the developmentally disabled, and Shepherds College will just be an extension of that."
Currently there are two major fields of study that the college will offer: horticulture and culinary arts. These were chosen after a research study was performed, asking the parents of developmentally challenged children what would be the biggest areas of interest to their children.
Horticulture and culinary arts had the highest percentages of interest, so they were chosen as the two programs the college would offer. They would also be the easiest for the university to pursue, as there are already greenhouses and kitchens on campus.
Shepherds College is a three-year program. The first year is spent instructing students in life skills, such as managing an apartment on their own and handling a checking account, as well as spiritual growth classes and basic academics.
The second year is focused more on the student's selected field of study, horticulture or culinary arts. In year three, students will be involved in an internship or practicum experience in the area. After completing the three year program, students will graduate with a certificate of completion and professional certificates. From there, Shepherds College will help students with job placement and provide a life coach who will advocate and mentor students in everything from career and living situation to spiritual life.
Shepherds College is hoping to have 12 to 15 students in the first year, with 12 living on-campus and the rest as commuters. They hope to grow incrementally after that.
The cost for a year at Shepherds College, including tuition, room and board, and any professional care the individuals may need, will be $27,250.
Please pray that the young adults who need the services Shepherds College offers will be able to attend, and that word about Shepherds College will be widespread. Please also pray for the recruiting process that is currently underway.
If you are interested in Shepherds College, or know someone who would benefit from the programs it offers, please visit www.shepherdscollege.org for more information. Phone numbers of Tracy Terrill and the dean of admissions are posted on the Web site, and they can also be contacted through e-mail.