Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Life and Career Studies now administered by Calvin

The 2023-2024 first year LCS students joined the program as it transitioned to administration by Calvin. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Smits)

Calvin’s Life and Career Studies program (LCS) — formerly administered by Ready for Life — provides inclusive post-secondary education opportunities to students with intellectual disabilities. 

LCS rebranded this year and is now a program housed within the department of education. There are 20 students enrolled in Life and Career Studies for the 2023-24 academic year, seven of whom are first-year students. 

Kate Strater, professor of education and the LCS program director, explained that Life and Career Studies is “approaching the final step” in a multi-year transition towards self-administration. 

In previous years, Calvin’s efforts at inclusive education were mainly administered by the nonprofit organization Ready for Life, with Calvin providing additional services. Since 2020, the responsibility for administrative duties has shifted towards the university culminating in this year’s transition. However, LCS will continue to receive key support services from Ready for Life, Strater said. 

Mia Kurkechian, the LCS academic and peer support coordinator, emphasized that the two main goals of the Life and Career studies program have stayed the same throughout the transition. These goals are independent living and competitive employment. “Our goal is that the students can live as independently as possible and eventually find the same types of jobs anyone else can,” Kurkechian told Chimes

These goals are made possible in part through volunteer academic support from traditional degree-seeking students. Kurkechian is “so very grateful” for the more than 7,000 hours given towards peer partnerships and academic support over the past three years. 

Ali Gummer, a junior who volunteers as an LCS academic support partner, said that accepting a role as a peer partner in a Calvin class was “one of the best decisions I have made in my college career.” Peer partners work alongside LCS students one-on-one in traditional Calvin classes, providing homework accountability and additional explanation of classwork when necessary. 

Gummer has since become an academic support volunteer, a role where she works alongside LCS students a few times a week to edit and complete homework assignments. Beyond these volunteer opportunities, Gummer suggested that Calvin students looking to get involved with LCS consider going to chapel or getting lunch with individual LCS students. These programs create a sense of belonging to the broader Calvin community for LCS students. 

Ava Davis, a first year student in the LCS program, told Chimes that the LCS program is teaching her skills for independent living. “I really like it so far,” Davis said. “Life and Career Studies teaches me about independent living, gives me opportunities and lets me live the fun college life just like other kids.”

Davis is taking CORE 100 and an oceanography class, alongside an LCS class where she learns study skills and how to respond to emails. Outside of academics, Davis participates in Campus Choir and Dance Guild, opportunities she said help her connect with traditional degree-seeking Calvin students. 

Senior Grant Lanning is also involved in extracurriculars at Calvin. “It’s pretty cool that I’m the first LCS student to be on Student Senate,” Lanning said.  “If they’re interested, I hope more LCS students join Senate next year.” Lanning says Student Senate is a great opportunity for his voice to be heard. 

Being a Calvin student has boosted his chances of getting a good job someday, Lanning told Chimes. “I’ll be graduating in May 2024,” Lanning told Chimes. “I’m grateful that LCS is giving me the skills and support to live on my own before I graduate.” 

While at Calvin, Lanning has worked for the Peet’s coffee shop and gotten an internship through the Prince Conference Center. Lanning says these work opportunities have boosted his resume for life after graduation. “I’m figuring out what type of job I want to do for my future,” Lanning says. “Life and Career studies has … given me skills for a good job.”

Strater echoed this sentiment, emphasizing how Life and Career Studies is a key component of Calvin’s Vision 2030 goal of providing lifelong learning opportunities for all people, including those with intellectual disabilities. 

Students interested in working with LCS at Calvin can reach out to Mia Kurkechian ([email protected]) for details about volunteer opportunities. 

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