HARRISON, N.Y. – Manhattanville College and an advocacy organization for the blind have joined together to use a New York State grant to host 25 blind students in a precollege program on the Purchase-based campus next July.
“We were thrilled – this was a very competitive process and we were hopeful that we would be selected,” said Nancy Miller, CEO and executive director of VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Only one other program, Aurora in central New York, was selected and that program will run out of LeMoyne College in Syracuse.
The opportunity for the rising seniors selected by the state will be priceless, Miller says.
“We know that there are many young blind high school students who are very anxious to go to college but may not be prepared for the requirements, the stresses, both academic and social, that a college program requires,” she said. “By having New York State fund a program to prepare these youngsters for the college experience, it will enable them to be much more successful, which we believe will help us have a higher graduation rate.
"It’s not just starting college, it’s finishing college, and that’s what’s most important for blind youth because once they have that college degree their employment outlook is much, much brighter.”
The 25 selected students will live on campus, eat three meals a day in the dining hall and take two noncredit courses, said Susan Steele, assistant director of communications for the New York State Office of Children and Family Service's Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, which awarded the grant. The courses are “Introduction to College Life,” taught by Manhattanville, in addition to a course taught by the commission.
The experience will also include activities and excursions “designed to prepare students for college life.”
Carin Horowitz, director of disability services and Title IX coordinator at Manhattanville, agreed with Miller.
“This is a much-needed program for a population that is at risk when they head off to college,” she said. “They face additional hurdles that can make it very difficult to transition to college. This program will give them a strong head start.”
“A small number of legally blind students” are enrolled at Manhattanville, “one of whom has already expressed interest in serving as a mentor to the summer program participants.”
Funding will start Sept. 1, which is when Manhattanville and VISIONS will “plan, prepare, recruit and hire” for the summer, Miller said.