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Lone Star College reaches out to underserved students

Lone Star College is developing a new associate degree for Occupational and Life Skills (OLS) to serve an often overlooked and underserved student population – those with cognitive disabilities.

To kick off the OLS Program, LSC is holding an open forum town hall meeting to gather input and insight directly from community members. The Open Forum will be held Thursday, Feb. 19, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Teaching Theatre (E-100) at LSC-Tomball. LSC plans to pilot the OLS program at LSC-Tomball this fall.

“We want to hear directly from residents what the needs are, and their ideas and suggestions about how to best serve students with cognitive disabilities and learn differently than others,” said Dr. Lee Ann Nutt, president of LSC-Tomball. “Our goal is to include members of our community – individuals as well as businesses – as active partners in the OLS Program.”

Officials estimate that there are more than 67,000 individuals in Harris and Montgomery counties who have cognitive disabilities and are not employed.

Common effects of cognitive disability include difficulty with initiation, organization and attention which results in limited practical skills, work skills, production and social interaction. Examples of cognitive skills impairments include ADHD/ADD, non-verbal learning disabilities (NVLD), autism, generalized learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, anxiety disorders and sight impairment.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to students with cognitive disabilities, and their parents, to help them overcome employment barriers and find living wage jobs,” said Dr. Nutt. “There are currently only two other colleges in the country offering this type of program. Lone Star College will be the first in Texas to tackle this very important subject.”

“We are reaching out to those interested in this program, as well as to companies that are most interested in hiring students with cognitive disabilities,” said Kristin Lue King, LSC executive director of expanding learning.

The OLS Program was developed 14 years ago by Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington and has provided an accredited associate degree in Occupational and Life Skills for the past seven years. The OLS Program is a cohort model, which means that a group of students progress collectively through the courses. It will serve 12 students in the first year, which begins this fall at LSC-Tomball.

The program uses a scaffold approach to learning, which moves students progressively toward stronger understanding of the content and ultimately to becoming independent in the learning process, over eight semesters (four years) and 60 credit hours. Students are also taught 21st century Learning Skills, skills that they need to function effectively in the computer information age.

A culminating project in the fourth year involves an internship at a local business. An internship coordinator will facilitate this internship experience and provide student access to employers in the future.

“Business partners and community members can become actively involved as early as the first year of the program, when students begin conducting mock interviews during Career Portfolio class,” said Lue King. “We encourage those interested to attend the forum Feb. 19.”

Contact Kristin Lue King at (832) 813-6633 or via email at Kristin.A.LueKing@LoneStar.edu for more information and to sign up for this very important project.

To hear directly from students in the OLS Program, please watch their stories at http://olsatbellevuecollege.com/student-stories/8/ .

For more information about the OLS Program at Bellevue College, visit http://olsatbellevuecollege.com.

Lone Star College has been opening doors to a better community for more than 40 years. Founded in 1973, LSC remains steadfast in its commitment to student success and credential completion. Today, with almost 83,000 students in credit classes, and a total enrollment of more than 95,000, Lone Star College is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the nation. Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., is the chancellor of LSC, which consists of six colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, LSC-Tomball and LSC-University Park, seven centers, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online.