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Riverhawks Scholar program helping those with intellectual disabilities

Posted at 5:56 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 18:18:31-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Some non-traditional students are celebrating after earning a certificate through Northeastern State University's Riverhawks Scholar program.

The program is specifically designed for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. It gives the students in the program a chance to attend college and reach their goals like everyone else.

“Keep up the good attitude, be honest, be organized, be happy and be smart… like I am," says Sarah Parrack, a graduate of NSU.

Parrack is among the first students to graduate from the Riverhawks Scholar program at NSU.

The program began in 2018 as a partnership with Lead Learn Live, a non-profit helping connect students with intellectual disabilities to NSU after high school. It focuses on:

  • Academics
  • Independent living
  • Social skills
  • Career development

“Most parents that have young children with disabilities, don’t think that college is a possibility," says Parrack.

But Parrack is proving anything is possible when you dream big and are determined.

“You can have a really fun campus life at NSU, because it’s my favorite experience and thank you for this college opportunity,” Parrack gushes.

Saturday she was among the first to cross the stage to receive a certificate of community integration with a focus in history.

"I'm really proud of myself. I really am."

And so is her family.

"I was in tears," says Rebecca Parrack, Sarah's mother. "Because it had been her dream for so long."

Justin Chase, director of the program, says students in the program share the same aspirations as other students.

“They want to be gainfully employed in a job or career of their choice and they want to be able to live independently," says Chase.

Sarah said she would like to work with incoming college students similar to the Riverhawks Scholar program.

Chase says, at the moment, they currently have 14 students in the program with plans to add five more freshmen this coming fall.

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